By: Vince Clark
This year’s iteration of the annual St-Georges Voyageurs Classic Ice Hockey Tournament took place on December 15th and 16th at the Pine Falls Arena. The tournament featured 6 teams, The St-Georges Voyageurs, the Pine Falls Ol’ Kings, the Lac du Bonnet Ol’ Blues, the Binmuckers (from the Beaches), the Smudge Pans (From Black River), the Bannock Boys (From Hollow Water) and the Lumberjacks (another Pine Falls team).
This was one of the most evenly matched tournaments in years, with nearly every game being decided by one or two goals. The tournament was also very chippy and physical, despite being non-contact hockey. This all culminated in a bench brawl during a game between the Ol’ Blues and Lumberjacks. The game was fast paced and intense, with both teams trading goals, leading to a 5-4 Ol’Blues lead before things got ugly. Following a couple of scrums and questionable plays, an Ol’Blues player attempted a knee-on-knee hit in front of the Lumberjacks bench. The player was grabbed by players on the Lumberjacks bench, and the entire Ol’ Blues bench cleared to defend him. The brawl spilled into the Lumberjacks bench before the referees and tournament officials got control and quickly proceeded to call the game with 10 minutes left in the second period. Tournament officials briefly considered kicking both teams out of the tournament, before deciding to only suspend the player who attempted the knee-on-knee hit and issue a warning to both teams.
The Binmuckers came in as overwhelming favorites, having not lost a game in over a calendar year. This streak ultimately came to an end in the second round of the A-side of the tournament bracket, at the hands of the Smudge Pans. This left them with a grueling Sunday schedule. They played the Ol’ Blues at 10 am, and won, had a break for one other game, then had to win three back-to-back-to-back games to win the title. They dispatched the Lumberjacks and got revenge on the Smudge Pans, before meeting the most unlikely foe in the championship game.
The St-Georges Voyageurs had struggled in recent years, rarely winning a game in the last half decade, though rarely getting blown-out either. They finally got over the hump this year and went undefeated to the tournament final, beating the Ol’Blues and Smudge Pans along the way.
The championship game was very fast-paced and entertaining. Voyageurs goalie Paul Schram and Binmuckers goalie Nolan Scrivens put on a show, and the game remained a 0-0 stalemate for much of the first period. The Binmuckers finally capitalized on a couple chances and took a commanding 4-0 lead. Just when it looked like the dream was over for the Voyageurs, the short benched, heavily fatigued Binmuckers began to fade, and the Voyageurs took full advantage. They quickly netted two goals and got the game to 4-2. A cherry-picked breakaway got the Binmuckers back ahead 5-2, but the Voyageurs quickly answered again. They just couldn’t find the back of the net with their goaltender pulled however, culminating in an empty-net goal and a 6-3 win for the Binmuckers.
The tournament was very well organized, and despite the unseasonably warm weather, the ice was in good shape all weekend. The canteen food was hot, the beer was cold, and spectators and players alike thoroughly enjoyed this fun filled weekend of hockey.