Canton Squirt B wins Cape Cod Christmas Classic

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The Bulldogs celebrate with the Christmas Classic championship trophy.

The Bulldogs celebrate with the Christmas Classic championship trophy.

The Canton Bulldogs Squirt B White hockey team, led by head coach Jeff Phaneuf, celebrated the holidays in style this year, bringing home the championship trophy and a treasure-chest of memories at the fourth annual Cape Cod Christmas Classic, held December 26-28 in Barnstable.

The Bulldogs were a dominant force throughout the three-day tournament, earning convincing wins over North Attleboro (10-0), Barnstable (9-2) and the South Coast Cyclones (9-0) before out-dueling Barnstable 4-2 in an action-packed championship finale.

Canton was led by stand-in goalie Colin Findlen, who allowed only four goals over four games with countless breathtaking saves. Findlen’s extraordinary goalkeeping was aided by the prowess and strength of defensive stalwart Griffin Hughes and the physical play and defensive intimidation of Tommy Phaneuf. The second defensive line featured the speed, agility and full-ice rushes of Michael Mondillo, accompanied by the rising star power and sharpshooting of Matt McDonough. The impenetrable defense was coordinated by coaches Dr. Michael Valkanas and John Leonetti.

The forward gate was manned by veteran Canton coach Brian Wanless, who patrolled three shifts of attackers. Starting center Jack Albert showed his toughness from the first puck drop with multiple wins at the face-off dot. He was supported by the other two centers: Andrew Valkanas, whose aggressive back-checking stymied the opponents’ offensive attacks, and Michael Leonetti, whose dekes and toe-drags left a number of opposing defenders and goalies frozen.

The wing positions were manned by the fearless Kyle Wanless, who won the majority of his puck battles, and the speedy and determined Jack Digirolomo, whose offensive rushes and quick hands left the opposing defenders in a daze. Also in the scoring category was the unprecedented game 3, lead-off hat-trick from Richie Wilz and the crafty stick-handling and top-shelf scoring from Eddie Gillis. Supporting this offensive onslaught was the persistent play of Sean O’Connor, who was in constant pursuit of the puck while also providing great support on the offensive drives.

All of the players had consistently crisp shots on net and precision passing to combine for Canton’s 32 total goals throughout the tournament. The entire Bulldog team worked tirelessly to create countless one-on-one breakaways and an endless flurry of quality shots on the opposing goaltenders, helping them to keep the pressure on each team that they faced.

Off the ice, the Canton team gathered at the nearby Courtyard Marriott hotel for the most memorable part of the event: the pick-up games of indoor knee hockey, swimming in the hotel pool, and ice cream treats in the lobby. Joining the players and the parents were approximately 15 other children, mostly player siblings, who decided to make the Christmas tournament a part of their holiday plans. Together, this large group of adults and children had early celebration and merriment, enjoying each other’s company while bonding both as a hockey team and as a community.

Feeling a little tired from some late-night activities, the Bulldogs took the ice on Saturday morning, excited to be playing for the crown. After a slow start, Canton was able to pull ahead in the second period, going up 3-1 before giving one back to make it a one-goal game heading into the final period of play. Working on tired legs, the Bulldogs used quick changes and bursts of speed throughout the third period to fend off the attempted comeback. With the final seconds ticking away, the game-ending buzzer sounded, showing a final score of 4-2 in favor of the 2013 tournament champion Bulldogs. Each Canton team member poured onto the ice toward Findlen, then lined up, shook hands, and thanked the opposing team and coaches, bringing an outstanding tournament to a close.

Addressing the newly crowned champs after the game, Coach Phaneuf said they “did Canton proud” by behaving themselves both on and off the ice, playing hockey the way it is supposed to be played, and showing respect for both the game and the event as a whole — all while having fun and supporting each other. All in all, spirits were high, making the ride home seem that much shorter with the glow of victory hanging in the air.

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avatar Posted by on Jan 9 2014. Filed under Sports, Youth Sports.
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