Young skaters heating up the rink

Hockey may be in its off-season but
in Cayman the sport is heating up in more ways than one.

Earlier this month a group of young
hockey players made their debut in American roller hockey. The side took part
in an exhibition tournament in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Officially called the
Cayman Islands Kings travel hockey team, the predominantly 12U group featured
players in this year’s WestTel Youth Roller Hockey League.

The Cayman kids faced three 14U
teams and one 12U side and came home without a win. Nevertheless the response
to Cayman’s presence was overwhelmingly positive. Local media, including the
Florida Sun-Sentinel, lined up to feature the team and the development of
hockey in Cayman. In addition the kids were invited to participate in an annual
hockey tournament in Orlando this October and two more events in early 2011.

Surrounding the youth team were
some of the best hockey players on the island in Dan Etherington and Ryan
Vanderwal and noted hockey mind Chris Anton. Etherington, who won a number of
local championships with the MEPCO High Rollers over the last four years, was a
defensive coach for the team and stated the side showed great toughness.

“I loved every minute of it. Everyone
was stepping up and putting an extra shoulder in. Our big guys were doing it
and our little guys were doing it. That was good physical hockey. Aaron
Hersant, Jean-Louis Beaudet, Alex Wilkins and Mack Moser were stars. Alex
turned out to be the most improved player of the tournament and the dedication
of Mack is to be commended.  Mack sustained
an injury during the warm-ups before our first game. He struggled but played
through the pain and was pivotal in our final game.”

Vanderwal, the star net-minder the
last few years with the Budget Beavers, served as goalie coach. He was
impressed msot with goalie Sean Whewell.

“Sean started the tournament with a
lot of nerves. He had a large responsibility to defend his team’s goal against
some very good and much bigger hockey players. It took a lot of heart for Sean
at age 12 to player against 14 and 15 year olds. I am very proud of him for not
giving up. I’d like to thank Sean for working so hard over the last few months
and I’m looking forward to working with him in the future because I really
believe this good goalie can become great.”

In spite of the losses Cayman
scored a number of goals. That fact pleased Anton, who served as the offensive
coach for the team.

“The feeling in the locker room was
electric. Everybody deals with the nerves differently and our team had a pretty
wide range of reactions. The biggest surprise for me came from our smallest
players, Jacob Whewell and Ethan Hersant. We had each of them skating with our
big power forward Michael Matthews for some size and support but it turns out
we may not have needed it – those two were our most aggressive, tenacious
players. They greatly benefited from the weeks of practice and only got
stronger as the games went on. We’re really proud of what these kids accomplished
and although we didn’t come home with a victory, we know they’ve all elevated
their game and showed the parents, coaches, and opposition that they are
capable of playing at a high level.”

Team Manager Ray Singh played an
integral part getting the team together (as well as assembling their male adult
counterparts who also competed in Deerfield Beach). He states the event speaks
highly of local hockey.

“Given the obstacles the team had
to go up against, we could not be any more proud of our kids. Although we would
have liked to test our skills against teams in our own age bracket, we did
benefit from playing against the bigger and better players. Our kids developed
as hockey players, showed that size didn’t matter and played with pure heart.

“With what our team demonstrated,
we can definitely compete at the tournament level as the kids held their own
quite well.  From the individual development
to our growth as a team, we are all very proud of these players. Whether or not
we go to Orlando in October will be a decision for our team as whole. We set
out to accomplish a few things on this trip and we did that.

“On behalf of the Cayman Islands
Kings players and coaches, we want to thank all of the parties that assisted
with this opportunity to play hockey in Florida, including our parents who
committed their time to the pilot program. Thanks to Colleen Stoetzel, the
team’s volunteer photographer; the Department of Tourism, who donated gift bags
for the opposing teams and coaches and to all of the hockey organizations in
Florida who helped to put together the exhibition tournament.”

For more information visit
www.csa.ky or email Ray Singh at [email protected]

SPORTSdanSTORY

Etherington liked Cayman’s toughness.
Photo: Matthew Yates