The 2001 Toledo Cherokee PeeWee minor travel hockey team, with four players from Sylvania and one from Perrysburg. won the International Silver Stick Hockey Tournament in Newmarket, Ontario this past weekend.
Participating were players Mitchell Miller, Jared Barfell, Jonah Ostrander, Jase Sofo, and Tyler Fredrick, all of Sylvania. Player Tanner Dickinson is from Perrysburg.
The international hockey tournament dates back to 1958 and is the only minor hockey tournament to be recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame. The champions are rewarded with the right to hoist and pass the silver stick that never leaves the tournament and they will also have their names engraved on a plaque that is placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame next to the original sterling silver stick and the famous green jacket that tournament founder Jack Kinsella wore.
To be invited to this tournament, the team must win its Regional Silver Stick tournament. which was in Cincinnati.
The experience of winning the International tournament proved to be rewarding, but also a bit challenging during the semi-final game when the team had just 6 forwards and 4 defensemen along with their goalie to get them through to the championship game.
During round-robin play, the ‘01 Cherokee handled Saginaw and Aurora with scores of 5-1 and 7-4. The third win against North York (4-1) kept the momentum going but it left them with 2 players that would have to sit out the next and semi-final game vs. Centre Wellington after receiving game penalties.
This was the first opportunity for the ‘01 team to be involved in a tournament that allowed checking and although the players adapted well, there proved to be some hiccups.
During that semi-final game, with an already short bench, another Cherokee player left injured with a broken hand, leaving the last 9 minutes of the game to be played with just 5 forwards. Although the players were physically worn, the coaching staff kept the players motivated, hydrated, and utilized quick shifts to manage such a short bench. That, along with the sheer determination of the players, allowed the Cherokee to pull off a 3-2 victory and head to the finals.
Coach Joe Sofo stated, “We as coaches and parents witnessed something truly incredible by 11-year-old boys. What they physically and psychologically went through in the semifinals and how they persevered and competed was simply amazing for any level of competition.”
The championship game was held on Sunday, Jan. 13, in Newmarket, Ontario against Aurora, which made it through round robin and beat a tough Mississauga team to advance and play Toledo once again.
Toledo played a much more complete game with a full bench, beating Aurora 7-0 to bring home the championship.
“We are so proud of our boys and the fact that they represented Toledo and the USA to bring home a win is something they will never forget,” Coach Sofo commented. The ’01 team consists of players from all over the region who play under the GTAHA (Greater Toledo Area Hockey Association) organization at the Team Toledo Ice House on Alexis Road. The team is coached by Steve Dickinson, Joe Sofo, and Toby Hafner.