Breaths were held with anticipation as the U-20 Exhibition Team Jamaica took to the ice on Friday afternoon. This was going to be a bigger test for the team stacking up against older, bigger, and more experienced teams. People assumed the worse for the team and this was becoming common. Maybe people will change their thoughts on this team, as they exploded out of the gates winning 14-0 in game one. Being up 7-0 in the first period, helped the team secure the route.
Additions were made to the roster and the new players adapted well with the veterans of the team. With only one practice for an hour and a half, the team seemed to gel quickly. Passing was of the essence, as puck movement was a key integral part in Coach Bollers’ philosophy. His up tempo, fast paced game was set to wear down opponents, combined with the passing, made it that much harder for the opposing team to keep up.
Game 2 was tougher as the U-20 Team Jamaica fell behind early, but rallied to tie late in the third period. Knowing what was at stake for Saturday the team came out firing again, slicing the competition 7-1. Game 4 would test the grit of this team as going into the third period, down 3-2 with about eight minutes left. The U-20 Team ignited a rally by tying the score then taking the lead with a 1:30 minutes remaining. Sealing the deal was Team Captain Cameron Searles, putting the puck into the empty net to make it a final 5-3.
During the time spent in the Toronto tournament, the TEP Showcase embraced the U-20 Exhibition Team Jamaica. In between periods Reggae music was playing, as the crowd was alive and jumping. The crowd numbers grew as the team continued to win. Our numbers were three wins and one tie going into the playoffs, outscoring our opponents 29-5. The playoffs would determine if the team was worthy of the #5 ranking out of the 32 teams.
The playoff Game 1 would prove more interesting than the U-20 Exhibition Team anticipated, as they took on the squad that made it to the finals last year. The game was tight with some nifty plays from both sides. We were down 2-1 heading into the third period, adjustments were made as they had been throughout the tournament to come back again in the third. Tying the game halfway through the period, a late power play goal was scored by CJ Bollers Jr. to grab the lead. Everything seemed set until a late mishap behind the net helped the opposition to tie it. With the coaching staff looking on, the game would see overtime. Overtime is normally stressful without any extra additives, none more than a puck ringing as loud as a door bell as it hits the post of the Jamaican net. As everyone showed a sigh of relief, Team Captain Cameron Searles went down and scored the game winner to send the U-20 Team on to the next round.
Game 2 was only an hour away, literally. For this tournament playoff, you had the potential of playing four games in one day. So… on to the Elite Eight. The U20 Exhibition Team test would get tougher, as neither side would not give an inch. The physicality was intense and none more so when Noah Kalsner-Lowe was kneed on a play, over the middle. Like the rest of the U-20 Team showing their toughness, Noah was back in two shifts. The team was down one goal going into the third period, looking to rally late again, but it was not to be… losing with the final score of 2-1, to finish the U-20 Exhibition Team weekend.
The U-20 Exhibition Team Jamaica had a lot to be proud of… making it to the Elite Eight with a fifth seed ranking, with only one practice. Most of the teams had a whole season to play with each other, and some more than that.
The respect, class, dignity, and charisma shown by our team was unmatched through the tournament, showing the world once again what the possibilities are.