Following an extended drive to Buffalo, New York, which lasted upwards of 10 hours for some of the players and parents, the Southern Maryland Sabres 8-and-Under A squad prevailed in a three-day tournament last month that consisted of four games against Canadian teams.
En route to capturing the 48th annual Gene Harrington Shootout Classic in upstate New York just short from the Canadian border, the Sabres defeated a trio of Canadian teams, including one they defeated twice. Sabres head coach Vlad Bortchevsky praised the effort of his youthful skaters and commended assistant coaches Jesse Thir, Bryan Espenschade and David Johnson for their contributions as well.
“One thing about this team is we have a really good group of players and a good group of coaches,” Bortchevsky said. “All of the coaches bring their strengths to the team and it’s a collaborative effort. A lot of the kids spent 10, 12 hours getting to New York. Some of them arrived around midnight and others got there about 2, 3 in the morning on game day.”
Southern Maryland opened the tournament by upending the East York (Canada) Bulldogs B team, 5-0, in a first day morning contest that started only several hours after several of the players reached their hotel. Several hours later, against the East York Bulldogs A squad, the Sabres were hitting on all strides early en route to a 10-0 victory.
“In youth hockey for this age group the kids play four-on-four with one goalie per side,” Bortchevsky said. “Our guys really passed the puck well and all three of our goalies played well up there. We had so many kids contribute, we didn’t even keep stats. There really is no genuine standout on this team.”
In the second day morning clash with the Forest Hill Blue (Canada) team, the Sabres found themselves in a dogfight early and eventually prevailed, 9-6. Since Forest Hill Blue had already defeated both East York squads, the Sabres would face them one day later in the championship game. In more of a defensive clash, the Sabres again prevailed, 6-3, to take home the Harrington trophy.
“These kids get a lot of ice time at the Capital Clubhouse each week,” Bortchevsky said. “They practice three days each week and they probably play at least one game each week. We get a lot of support from the Washington Caps. We’re fortunate to have a lot of kids in this age group right now, but we took our best team up to New York.”
The Sabres 8-U A roster is comprised of Alex Bortchevsky, Gavin Huiskens, Conner Thir, Alex Walsh, Cole Turner, Cole Espenschade, Reed Earnshaw, Jack DeLay, Noah Johnson, Josh Suchter, Charlie Dosberg, Tucker Guy and Sean Zopelis.
Coach Bortchevsky noted the team has tournaments pending in Allentown, Pennsylvania over the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday weekend in January and in Raleigh, North Carolina during Presidents Day weekend in February.