Monday, February 6, 2012

The Hearts of Champions

2012 Centerstate Tournament CHAMPIONS

                                Lysander Lightning Team Bellso – You Rock!
                                                                          By Dawn O'Neill
                                                                          Hockey mom
                                                                          Contributing Blogger   
Our young hockey players, from the Lysander Lightning team, began their journey in the early morning hours of Saturday, January 21, 2012.  Many of these young boys  (and one girl) have never been in a tournament together.  Watching them, you would think they had been together since they were mini-mites.  These kids have chemistry and play with some of the biggest hearts you've ever seen.  They never give up.  They have coaches that hug and encourage them, win-lose-or-draw regardless of the score.  The parents have come together like no other group of parents I have seen in a team sport.  So, prior to the tournament, we all decided, along with voting from the kids, to do as much as possible to set ourselves apart as a “stand out” team.  On the first day of the tournament, we all decided it would be “cool” to have the team all tape their sticks bright pink as a sense of unity…the WOW factor as we call it!  On the second day, we all decided to tape their sticks bright fluorescent green.  And let me tell you, heads turned when these kids not only skated out on the ice in standard uniforms, but all with the samecolored sticks that stood out with noticeable difference!
     As they began their journey on that early Saturday morning, we were to face the red team from New Hartford.  The game began with nerves and energy heightened.  Our kids were pumped!  Our kids dominated from the start, and it was obvious they wanted “the win”.  It is amazing to see the heart and soul come out of a group of 9 & 10 year olds when they want something so badly.  The game concluded with Lysander coming away with the win 4-3.  It was fought with courage and energy, and the boys were off to a great start!  At the end of the game, there was a goalie competition “shoot out”.  My young “man between the pipes”, “Big B” Bradley O’Neill as he is known to his teammates was to face 5 shots one-on-one from the opposing team.  By the end of the shoot out, “Big B” had stopped all shots against him, and Lysander had scored one against New Hartford…YEAH!  We had time between games and did not need to return to the rink for our second game until later in the afternoon, so off to some serious team (and parent) bonding we went for a much-deserved team lunch.  We returned to the rink with the same anxiety and nerves from the morning and were expecting to play the blue team from New Hartford.  The game began and while the kids skated with the same heart as they did that morning, the win was not to be in their favor and they lost 5-3….OK, no big worry, right?  At the end of the second game, there was a goalie competition “shoot out” again.  And “Big B” was back it again…stopping ALL shots against him, and Lysander scoring two against New Hartford.  As with all tournaments, parents and kids alike were anxiously watching the points from the other games to see what odds they were up against for the next early-morning game, where they were to face the hosting Centerstate team from Morrisville.
 The game began and our team was off to a fantastic start!  Our boys (and girl) came out with determination and before we knew it, it was 10-1….GAME OVER!  Now, it was obvious this team was anxious to find out whether what they had just done was what it would take to get them to the championship.  As all of us parents were standing outside the locker room while the Coaches had their “team talk”, we suddenly heard the LOUDEST scream you could ever imagine coming from that room of 9 & 10 year olds.  The Coaches had just informed them that by taking all 5 points from the game they, in fact, would be in the Championship game later that day!  As is tradition at the end of every one of our games, the Coaches usually hand out a “game puck” to a player who really stood out in their efforts and in playing their position.  However, this tournament, it was not to be.  The Coaches said to the team that to get to this point, they had all shined, and so there was a TEAM PUCK that represented ALL their efforts….YEAH!  So, it was off to a very calm (and team bonding) breakfast break for the team, and a little celebration for having come this far!
       And this is where the REAL EXCITEMENT begins…
The team returned to the ice plex and you could see they were pumped up and anxious.  In the locker room, there was talk of what they wanted out of this.  As parents, of course, we were telling them to just play hard and have fun and that the results would be as they would.  However, this courageous TEAM, who have really come together with passion and skill, was not having any of that “parent talk”…. THEY WANTED TO WIN!  As I suited up my “Big B”, I took his face into my hands and simply said “Buddy….just one save at a time, just one save at a time!”  And in his wonderful and angelic manner, he replied, “Mom, I just want to win!”  Choking back the emotion, I replied, “I know, honey.  You guys can do it, but be proud of the outcome…whatever it is!”  And we left the team to be with their coaches for the ritual “pep talk”.
 The parents, very nervously, awaited the team's entrance on the ice.  As is customary, “Big B” came out of the locker room, leading his team to the ice entrance.  It was an eerie feeling, as you could see the determination in their eyes and the energy like they were going to explode!  With no noise or yelling, “Big B” skated on the ice and went to the center, slapping his bright green stick.  We all began cheering and then very quickly quieted down, when we saw what the team was doing.  Each player skated out on the ice, circling “Big B” in a continuous motion, all slapping their sticks, and NO ONE saying a word.  They were focused and sending a VERY BIG message…..they were here to play AND to win!  For about a minute, they continued this and then broke into their regular warm up drills.  The game began and off we went.  Both teams were energized and played hard.  It remained very competitive throughout the whole game.  In the 2nd period, a player from New Hartford committed a “major penalty” which resulted in 5 minutes in the penalty box.  During this very big power play opportunity, our team was able to score 2 goals off of it.  As the 3rd period approached, our parents were yelling, “This is YOURS!  You guys want it?  Go get it!”  We began to pull away in the 3rd period, ONE unified team, with ONE goal in mind, and they did not let up!  With about 2 minutes left to go, it was 6-3, and we were about to bust……these kids were going to do it!  As the seconds ticked down on the clock, we got louder and louder.  Time expired and Lysander Lightning, Team Bellso, had just won the championship!  The boys jumped the wall and in unison, all gloves and sticks went flying high into the air.  And, “Big B” was nowhere to be found…he was buried below a team of 16 of the best (most supportive) teammates one could ever ask for!  We stood in awe of the perseverance of this team, as they celebrated what was duly theirs!  The Coaches have done and amazing job with building these kids up with not only skills, but with heart and with believing in themselves!
     After the huge celebration in the locker room, I went over to “Big B” and asked him, “Buddy, what were you feeling and thinking as you sat there watching the last minute tick off the clock?”  His reply was, “Mom, I just kept thinking….we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it!  And we did!”  He also informed me that the team had planned, beforehand, exactly how they were going to celebrate on the ice “WHEN” they won….that’s kids for you! 
    From your team parents, THANK YOU, Team Bellso, for a heart-thumping, exciting weekend…..YOU GUYS ROCK!

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