Skaters glide to Fort Myers glory at Echo Invitational

Cayman Islands hockey scored fresh props abroad.

The national men’s inline hockey team recently competed in the Echo 18 and Under and Adult Invitational in Fort Myers, Florida. They finished second in the tournament, out of seven teams. The competition leads into a youth tournament played at the Skatium in Ft. Myers beginning April 11.

Cayman, consisting of players in the ongoing men’s league at Kings Sports Centre, played in the first game of the tournament with high expectations. Their opponents, the Gamblers, went up 2-0 before the end of the first period. Cayman stuck with their game plan and were awarded with two goals in the final minutes of the second period. Heading into the third period tied 2-2, momentum was in Cayman’s favor and the local players were in control after goals from Dan Etherington and Evan Ellbogen. Randy Cannon played a very strong game in net and shut down many strong scoring chances by the Gamblers.

In the second game, Cayman came out strong after developing some cohesiveness. The result was an impressive 6-1 victory over the Gulf Coast Eagles, with strong performances from Randy Cannon, Dan O’Flaherty and Dennis Passchier. Etherington and Ellbogen continued to play well up front together, while Jamie Nelson had an end-to-end goal.

With wins in the first two games, Cayman had the opportunity to win the No. 1 seed in the standings. Heading into the third game, the team knew that it needed to play well and follow the game plan.

In the end, it was a decisive win for Cayman, beating the Hungry Howies, 8-0, with goals from Nelson, O’Flaherty, Mike Bowden, Etherington and Ellbogen.

Armed with the No. 1 seed, Cayman would go on to earn its first ever finals berth. Standing in their way were The Independents, which comprised of top players around Florida. The game was a hard-fought, chippy battle between two teams wanting to win the gold medal. The game went back and forth as The Independents scored first before Cayman clawed back at 1-1 with a goal from Ellbogen. Colin Wilson scored his first goal of the tournament to give Cayman a 2-1 lead.

The Independents were not ready to back down as they broke through again after a nice pass through the defense to make the game tied at 2-2. The Independents did a great job getting past Cayman’s defense with nine total breakaways in the game. Randy Cannon played a phenomenal game, keeping the score close. However, the opposition’s star player, a 24-year-old hockey coach from Fort Myers, scored the third goal for The Independents to give them the lead once again.

Cayman kept battling as the intensity of the game increased. With 1:20 left in the third period, O’Flaherty skated up the wing at full speed, feeding the puck to an open Ellbogen in the offensive zone. Ellbogen walked in one-on-one with their defense man and scored on the opposing goalie with a wrist shot. Heading into overtime, played 3-on-3, there would be a lot of open space on the regulation size rink. Once again, the effective positioning of The Independents proved to be the difference maker as they created one last breakaway goal with a pass from their own end.

Ellbogen, the hockey director at Kings, said the squad was happy with the results.

“The team is proud of our effort and happy to celebrate the men’s highest finish in international play,” Ellbogen said. “We hope to pass on the success of our team to the youth teams heading back to Fort Myers on April 11.”