With less than 45 seconds remaining in the Cascade Hockey Invitational 10U final Saturday afternoon and the Bend Rapids White and Southern Oregon Jr. Spartans tied at 7-7, Baeley Matsuoka stole the puck from a Spartan and immediately took a shot, which slid under the opposing goalie’s pads and into the net.
“I stole it from whoever it was, and I aimed and I took a shot — I wasn’t expecting it to go in,” recounted Matsuoka, 10, who recently joined the Rapids after moving to Bend from Hawaii with her family in November.
About 30 seconds later, Rapids goalie Bodie Dimmig, also 10, put an end to the Spartans’ final scoring threat when he grabbed a shot out of the air and held on to the puck. The Rapids, who had started their first game of the day 11 hours earlier, at 6 a.m., threw their sticks in the air when the final buzzer sounded and celebrated their championship by dog-piling on Dimmig in goal.
The tournament had ended on a high note for the Rapids — as it had for the Bend Rapids 10U Green team, which scored two goals in the final two minutes to beat the Portland Jr. Winterhawks-Chaos 4-2 in the silver bracket final a few hours earlier — but the weekend’s games were barely half over at The Pavilion in Bend.
Eleven 10U and 12U teams, three of them from Bend, took part in the third Cascade Invitational from Friday through Sunday. The Bend Rapids 14U and high school teams also played each other on Saturday and again Sunday afternoon.
“It’s more known now that the tournament’s here, the rink is here, so all the clubs from around the state want to come to the tournament … they’ve never been to a facility like this,” tournament director John Kromm said, referencing the fact that the 2-year-old rink at The Pavilion is one of the few outdoor rinks in the northwest that can accommodate hockey games. “They think it’s great, they come in and say, ‘This is so fun,’ especially when we get a few inches of snow on the ground, so they feel like this is the (NHL’s) Winter Classic out here.”
Gavin White, a 9-year-old Rapids Green player, said he enjoyed having a weekend tournament at his home rink, even as snow and wind whipped around the ice during the first few matches Saturday morning.
“This one’s outdoors, and most of them are indoor. This one is less stinky because it’s outdoor,” explained a matter-of-fact White, who changed into pajamas made to resemble a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform in between each of his games on Saturday. “It’s more fun (playing outside), except for on mornings because then you’re really cold.”
Before the silver bracket finals, White said his favorite game of the tournament so far was against the Portland Jr. Winterhawks-Flames, because the team had so many shots on goal (the Rapids won, 9-5), but he also said he liked playing the Spartans from Medford, the same team that would go on to play the Rapids White team in the gold bracket finals.
“They’re tougher, they’re more tough than the other teams to play, so it gives us more of a challenge,” White said.
The 10U teams played their matches with a barrier positioned on the ice to reduce the size of the rink by a quarter, which resulted in a number of high-scoring games.
“That’s allowed all of the players to get a little more involved in the games,” said Jon Vlasak, who coaches both the 10U White and Green Rapids teams as well as the 12U Rapids team. “The kids love it. Some of the traditionalists, I think the jury’s still out for them. I think that doing the three-quarter ice gives (the players) more of an opportunity to play the puck, touch the puck, get a little more involved, which means they’re better hockey players in the long run.”
Although the smaller ice meant more shots on goal for the goalies to block, Dimmig, the Rapids White goalie, held the Vancouver Rangers scoreless in the gold bracket semifinals Saturday morning, stopping 26 shots on goal as the Rapids won 7-0.
“Well that’s probably my best game I’ve ever played,” Dimmig said after the win, as Rapids players and parents came up to congratulate him. “Last time this team beat us, I think it might have been 3-1, so that was much better than last time. I think I just practiced a little more and I’m used to the team now. I know all the shooters like to shoot high.”
Between the 10U silver and gold bracket finals, the Bend Rapids 12U team opened its tournament with a 7-2 win over the Portland Jr. Winterhawks, outshooting the visitors 29-8. Rapids player Will Ryan, 12, said opening a tournament with a win like that “gets you moving,” but he also noted that the most encouraging play of the game did not actually result in a goal.
“I shot on the goalie’s right kneepad, it bounced off and went right to (his Rapids teammate) Jackson Henry, he had it right in the zone,” Ryan recounted, although Henry’s shot bounced and did not end up in the net. “I thought it was really cool to be able to shoot it right on the goal. That’s a new step for me.”
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