By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the Lakeshore News and Tecumseh Shorline on Jan. 5, 2017
Photo: Belle River’s Isabella Alexander (6) and Abby Brown (19) pursue Tecumseh Vista’s Hailey Thorne (11) at the Atlas Tube Centre on Dec. 22.
On Dec. 22, a chilly winter night, hockey fans, family, and local high school students gathered together at the Atlas Tube Centre for a good cause. Bringing together the athletic communities of Belle River District High School and Tecumseh Vista Academy, the boys’ and girls’ hockey clubs of these two institutions clashed on the ice for the second annual Lakeshore Cup.
Most high school hockey games start around 3 p.m., but the Lakeshore Cup was played at a more convenient time-slot to maximize the number of spectators, as this game was for charity.
“Basically there are two goals to the Lakeshore Cup,” explained Belle River Nobles boys’ coach Dave Bracken. “The first and foremost goal is to help promote the [Lakeshore Food Pantry] with [donations of] food, and more so, warm clothing. It’s a fundraiser for the community, for those in need, but secondly, it’s to promote high school hockey. Most games are right after school, when a lot of people can’t come out and watch, so we figured if we got a couple night games to get some new people out watching, and see how great of hockey it is, that’s the second goal of the games.”
Tecumseh Vista principal and Vortex team manager Bill Toews also added, “It’s a celebration of high school hockey, really, between a couple of schools on the north shore. It’s a really great event also; it raises money and it raises, in the case of today’s game, clothing for those who need it…”
Lakeshore Coun. Tracey Bailey was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop and to observe the event. As CEO of the Community Support Centre of Essex County and the Lakeshore Community Food Bank, Bailey best described the purpose of the pantry and what it is.
“It’s a … house, that was donated for our use and the shelves are stocked within the home,” stated Bailey. She added, “It’s market style. [People] come to the pantry and actually shop for what they need. They are able to go through the shelves and choose what they want right off the shelves. They actually get matched with the food their family eats.”
Coun. Bailey was pleased with the efforts of the young men and women of the two high schools and the enthusiasm they provide.
“They have been working hard, consistently, throughout the year,” said the councillor. “They work very hard for us collecting cans and collecting donations. Monetary donations go towards buying the perishable items; meat, chicken, cheese, butter, and things like that. They collect coats for Coats for Kids time and hats and mitts and things like that. They are very supportive.”
Indeed the players of the four hockey teams were very pleased to lend their support.
“It feels really good because it’s kinda like you’re playing the game, but it’s for the bigger picture,” said Matthew Norris of Tecumseh Vista. “It’s not just for yourself, you’re trying to make someone else’s life better too.”
“It feels amazing, I’m hoping we have a lot of donations. This is such a good thing to do,” added Tanya Candido from Belle River.
Serena Kelly, who would play against Candido that night, shared a similar sentiment: “I am very grateful that me and [Tecumseh Vista] are able to play in this game, just that the proceeds are going to charity and it feels really good to me, and, I’m sure, all the other girls that we are able to do this.”
Nobles’ captain Cody McFarlane, emphasized the sense of community that he felt when participating in the event last year. “It’s a great way to give back,” he said, adding, “I helped out bringing all the stuff back to Pantry [last year], and it’s just unbelievable, all the stuff the community gives back is actually humbling.”
At 6 p.m., the girls took to the ice.
Nobles girls’ coach Joel Caslick is looking forward to a big year for his team.
“We have a senior team, so our expectations are high,” said Caslick. “We’ve had a slow start, but have started playing better lately. Our goal is to continue to get better every time we step on the ice. We realize that there are other schools out there with quality programs and talent, but we feel up to any challenge they may put in front of us this season.”
Tanya Candido, a 17-year-old senior with aspirations of studying psychology and politics after she graduates high school, feels optimistic about her team’s chances this year.
“I think we’re doing really good,” said Candido, who also plays Chatham Outlaws. “After we had a tournament in London, I think it was a huge team bonding experience, especially because we have so many new kids on the team. I think they became part of the team at that tournament, because they felt like one of us, they felt like a Noble.”
Vortex coach and Olympian Suzanne Hlady is also happy with her team.
“The girls are having lots of fun and they’re just a bunch of grinders,” said Hlady. “We have a lot of spirit, so, hopefully, that will show in the scores coming up.”
Tecumseh Vista plays in a lower tier than Belle River, but the Vortex have a young and growing program.
“We’re mostly a junior team, we [have] a lot of grade nines and tens,” said the coach. “We don’t have a lot of travel players, but we are a small school and we’re a building program. We’re in our fifth year of our school program existing.”
Serena Kelly, a 17-year-old senior who also has post-secondary aspirations in politics, feels that her team’s program will only get better in time.
“We win some and lose some. I think we’re pretty evenly matched with most of the teams in our league,” said Kelly.
Although the Vortex clung close in the opening frame, the speed, size, and experience of the Nobles eventually bled through.
Winning by a 6-0 score, Belle River received markers from Candido, Kayla Brosseau, Kim Hurst, Jordyn Brigley, Taylor Malenfant, and Alanna Budden. Sarah Hoster and Michelle Winand-Bacon split the shutout in net.
Next, it was the boys’ turn to square off. Both boys’ teams are having strong seasons but in different leagues.
“We’ve done well in the season,” explained Nobles boys’ coach Dave Bracken. “We maybe lost a game we didn’t think we should have, it was kind of a lesson learned, but we’ve played in two tournaments so far and the guys have really got up for it.”
Belle River is fresh off their second straight trip to the Southern Ontario Classic high school tournament’s championship round. After upsetting a Toronto school and the St. Anne’s Saints in the semifinal, the Nobles fell in a nail-biting championship match against the Villanova Wildcats.
“We had a big turnaround from last year,” said Bracken. He later added, “We’re an older team, even though we’ve got some new guys on the team, we’re really hoping that helps us come playoff time.”
Vista principal Bill Toews’ Vortex are having a great year in tier two this season, as they have gone undefeated. Vista also boasts a highly skilled and speedy women’s player, Olivia Hilton, who impressed despite only being 15 years old.
“It’s a really good group of young hockey players,” said Toews. “We’ve got a really solid crew. We have a really outstanding, young female prospect [Hilton] who hopes to play scholarship hockey in the States when she graduates.”
Despite a valiant effort from the Vortex, holding the Nobles to one goal in the opening frame, Belle River walked away with a 5-1 win powered by a two-goal middle act by Eric Larue. Hunter Bailey, Logan McFarlane, and Shane Laforest also added tallies to the cause. Vista’s Andre Ducharme broke winning goalie Patrick Timpany’s shutout bid with less than four minutes remaining.
With a great turnout and generous clothing donations, it seems that the Lakeshore Cup should be here to stay.
“It will be an annual event, every year, right before Christmas,” said Bracken. As for the Vortex hosting the event, Principal Toews added, “I think we’d like to host it at some point, [but] the Atlas Centre is a great venue, they’ve got a great bowl with a lot of room and space for both teams and their fans to come.”