What a weekend it was for the Gander U12 Flyers and the Glovertown and Area U12 Tornadoes.
Both female teams competed this past weekend at the second annual U12 Female Hockey Tournament in Glovertown.
When the smoke cleared, the Tornadoes came away with the bronze after defeating the Clarenville Caribous 4-1, and the Flyers earned silver after losing to the Exploits Cataracts of Grand Falls-Windsor 14-4.
The Cataracts iced a very strong U12 team that went undefeated at the weekend tournament, and after the Cats defeated the Flyers to win gold, Gander's head coach Jamie Norman said he couldn't have been prouder of the way his young team played.
The Flyers struck first, and had momentum early. However, a few penalties and a waved-off goal gave that momentum back to the Cataracts, who never relinquished it.
"We had a great start," said Norman. "The girls battled the entire game, and at the end of the day they left everything on the ice. They played their hardest and they have nothing to be ashamed of with the silver medal. They earned it.
"I'm extremely pleased with the work ethic and effort the girls put into this weekend. In my view, they're true champions when they try hard, and that's exactly what they did."
Although every team and player wants that elusive gold medal, Norman said he wants his U12 girls to focus on their ability to compete, their ability to work as a single unit, and most of all, to have fun. Before his team stepped on the ice to face the Cataracts in the gold-medal game, he made it quite clear that winning wouldn't be defined by the result on the scoreboard.
"Like I told them before the gold-medal game, if they have fun and compete 110 per cent, they'll win regardless of the outcome."
As for the Tornadoes, the sophomore U12 team has been enjoying quite a run as of late. The team earned its first-ever gold medal at the Comfort Inn Female Hockey Tournament in Gander in early December, and now the girls have a bronze medal to add to their rapidly growing trophy case.
Assistant coach Lindahl Butt said he doesn't remember the last time he had so much fun with hockey, but if you knew the kids he helps coach, you would understand why.
"They're so coachable," said Butt. "Whatever you ask these girls to do they'll do it. Whenever we practice they practice hard, and there's no quit in them when they play a game. They play hard, but they play honest. They cheer for each other and you can almost hear them cheering for the other team."
Tornado players Charlotte Butt and Paige Gordon said they thoroughly enjoyed competing in the U12 tournament in front of their family and friends.
Along with competing in four games of hockey over Saturday and Sunday, the U12 team got to do something that has never been done before at the arena in Glovertown.
"We were able to win the gold medal in our last tournament in Gander, and now we have the bronze from our tournament here," said Gordon. "It's the first time we were able to win a medal in our rink."
"It feels really good," added Butt, "because we practice really hard, and all that work paid off."
It was the first time the U12 Tornadoes won a medal in its home barn, but it was also the first time a Gander Flyer earned a medal of any colour.
Rebecca Oram was one of the Flyers who waited for her name to be called to receive the silver medal after the loss to the Cataracts. She stood quietly, but the look on her face said it all. Her eyes were wider than saucers, and when she finally heard her name, rushed to get the medal she waited so long to get.
"It feels good because this is my first tournament...and this is my first medal ever," said Oram, who was still grinning after she took her equipment off for an interview with The Beacon. "I also got my first goal when we played Grand Falls-Windsor on Saturday."
When asked about her silver medal, Sarah Hefford put everything into perspective. The 11-year-old said she was happy with the silver because, well, there was a chance her team wouldn't even make the gold-medal game.
"It feels good," said Hefford, who scored her first two career goals over the weekend. "We could have won bronze, or we could have left without a medal at all, but we made it to the championship and won the silver."
Looking ahead, Butt said his team will continue to practice and prepare for upcoming tournaments, and Norman said the Flyers will do the same.
For Norman, the game plan is simple - help the girls get better at every aspect of the sport of hockey.
"We need to get a balance right from our goaltending out. We have two brand new goalies (Jocelyn Penney and Asia Mowbray), and the first time they were in net was during this tournament," said Norman. "We're going to utilize the strength of Gander Minor Hockey in regards to using our goaltender coaches, and we're going to continue working on skill development, and passing the puck so we can move it around and out of our zone a little better."
The Flyers finished second after the round robin with a 2-1 record. The squad defeated the Tornadoes 9-4 and the Caribous 10-0, but lost to the Cataracts 9-2.
The Tornadoes finished third after the round robin thanks to a 1-2 record. The host team defeated the Caribous 10-0, but lost to Cataracts 5-2, and to the Flyers 9-4.