Cayman Islands youth hockey made an impact in Florida this week.
Cayman sent a youth roller hockey travel team to Estero, near Fort Myers, for the 2014 North American Roller Hockey Championships. There were three squads of youngsters – competing in the Atom Silver, Mite Silver and Squirt Club divisions – skating at the Germain Arena.
Expectations were high as Cayman was coming off a silver medal effort in the eight-and-under division at this year’s Florida regional in Fort Myers. Cayman competed in the 2013 championships in Toronto and garnered a medal in the 10-and-under segment with Jayden Mannisto emerging as a star goalie.
Cayman won silver in the Atom segment, losing to American side Mission Farm Tough, 8-2, in the final. There were a total of seven teams in the group, and aside from Mission Farm and Cayman, the other playoff teams were the NC Dragons and the Scorpions. In the semifinals, Mission Farm crushed the Scorpions, 10-0, while Cayman beat the Dragons, 3-2.
In the title game, Cayman were down early after giving up a goal from the face-off. Mission Farm were up 3-0 in the early stages before Connor Finch and Molly Kehoe combined for a goal to make the score 3-1 at the end of the first period. Mission Farm continued their onslaught in the second period, rattling off five unanswered goals. Cayman never gave up and Jaedon Cover scored late off a defensive miscue to get the game’s final goal.
In the Mite segment, Cayman were the top seed and earned a bye to the final. There they faced the Colorado Stallions and the result was a low-scoring game. Cayman scored right away, courtesy of Nick McCallum and padded their lead thanks to Sadie Finch.
Colorado rallied back with a spectacular solo effort from their big goal scorer, Gavin Barr. The first period ended with Cayman up 2-1. In the second period, the Stallions rushed a Cayman squad trying to nurse their lead and Barr emerged the hero with two more goals to lead Colorado to a 3-2 victory.
The Squirt group was tightly contested and the winner was a surprise as the standings were close. Cayman emerged with the third seed, behind the Tour Lizard Kings and Katios Hockey Club and ahead of the Gulf Coast Eagles, Long Island Storm, Wellington Prowlers and the Columbia Hockey High School. Cayman won its opening playoff contest, taking out the Prowlers, 8-2. Local skaters fell short of a finals berth, losing in the semis to Katios, 2-1.
Lonny Lovins is among the tournament organizers, serving as a referee for most of the youth games. Lovins said he expected Cayman to play well.
“I got to referee a couple of games for the Cayman Islands’ teams,” Lovins said. “I remember seeing them for the first time last year in Toronto and I hoped that they would stick with the sport and continue to come to events.
“When I came to the Florida regional this year in Fort Myers, I was happy to see that not only did they stick with the sport, but that they were building a new young team to bring to the finals. Their 8U team played really well there and I was curious to see how Cayman would do here at finals. From what I have seen, Cayman seems to be in pretty good shape.”