One week ago... During this year’s
March Break, our High School Boys got together to make the trip out to Calgary
for the John Csikos Alberta Open tournament, competing in the Youth division.
This was a great chance to expand their horizons, and test their skills against
some different water polo teams and athletes.
Watch the U16 Wild vs Kraken game -
Given the distance and the time involved to get there, KW was only able to send a skeleton crew of just 9 players, including two 14Us who jumped in to help. This proved to make things a bit tricky a couple of times when the boys got into “go directly to jail” trouble, as they struggled to learn on the job the new FINA rules being enforced, leading to quite a few penalty shots against.
A great feature of the tournament was that people back home were able to follow our Kraken’s progress through the conference live stream on YouTube, which from a number of frantic emails led to some highs and also some consternation on occasion as the tension mounted throughout the tournament.
A full report of each game is below, for those interested. But the long and the short of it is: the KW Kraken Krew ended up bringing back a Gold Medal from an extremely competitive tournament where the teams had to show their mettle.
Many thanks to Coach Evan for his enthusiasm, energy and professionalism throughout the trip. Many more thanks to Christine Neill our parent chaperone who when the trip’s chances of happening was in peril, volunteered to travel to Calgary for the sake of the team.
Also, a very big shout out to the Alberta Open organizers for helping make the trip possible. The entire tournament was a fabulous experience in a wonderful facility, and the live streaming was incredibly popular with the families back home, enabling all to see the team in action.
Detailed Game Reports:
Click on the image below for a larger version...
After arriving in the West on Wednesday evening, the Kraken Krew had an almost free day on Thursday. They took advantage by heading further West out to Banff to see some scenery. The audible gasp in the car as the mountains came into view was quite a delight, and the fact that most of the photos the boys sent home during the trip were of snow covered mountains attests to the thrill the Ontarians got from such amazing sights.
But time for sightseeing was over too soon, with the first game Thursday night looming.
Game 1 was against the Calgary Torpedoes.
The 9 pm local start time meant the result would hinge on who could best handle the late game time. Our HSB Krakens came into the game with all guns blazing and shot out to an early lead. Jack Willis buried the first goal just 10 seconds into the first quarter. Strong defense, a hallmark of the team’s play (with especially strong contributions from Jack Johnson who was constantly in on the action) held the Torpedoes from scoring until late in the game. A last minute surge from the Calgarians showed that they had no intention of rolling over in the game at any point.
Swimming! (Jack J, Etienne, Mehdi)
Game 2 was against Mako Grey squad.
Again from Calgary, proving to be the Kraken’s toughest Round Robin opponent. With the score of 3 all after two quarters, KW took their time, regrouping for a strong second half. The third quarter would prove decisive, with the Kraken pulling ahead to 7-4 by the end. Matt Bilicic scoring a couple of back to back goals at outset of the quarter, cleverly taking advantage of man up situations. Two late kick outs in the game could have caused a problem given the very short bench, but the boys managed to maintain their composure and pull together for a final score of 11-7.
Kraken on O (Martin to Jack W, Isaac in foreground).
Game 3 KW faced off against yet another Calgary team, this time the Wild.
The Kraken again, wasted no time acquiring a quick 3-0 lead, holding it to the end of the first quarter, pouring on the pressure all game for a final score of 11-3. A rather weird phase in the game came when 3 consecutive penalty shots occurred in 3 consecutive possessions – two against the Kraken and one for. Thanks to heroic goaltending from Nikola Borjanic and a brilliant shot by Martin Robles, the Kraken got the lone goal out of it.
At the conclusion of the Round Robin, the Kraken sat atop Pool B, earning a bye for the next round. Of course we know the bye is not always helpful. A bit too much rest, and a bit too much complacency sets the stage for upsets to happen. Indeed, both looked to be problems when KW faced off against the Calgary Wild for the second time in the tournament deciding who would earn a spot in Gold Medal Game, and who would be fighting it out for Bronze.
Listening very, very carefully.
Post-game recovery chocolate milk.
Semi-Finals: The Wild rematch didn’t go anything like the first time around - a feature of this tournament, where teams really were quite evenly matched and results depended on effort on the day and a healthy dose of luck. The Kraken struggled to get the ball into a strong shooting position early, while the Wild easily peppered KW’s net. However, luck was on the side of the Ontario boy, as they managed to convert more of their shots. Goals from Medhi Al-Aoussi and Jack Willis from centre countering a very nice goal from the Wild during a man up. A crucial save from Victor Schwanen staved off the Wild’s last second effort to even the score, ending the 1st quarter at 2-1 KW.
Then the tide started to turn against the Kraken during the 2nd quarter, in which the Wild converted a penalty shot opportunity (making amends for the previous game’s misses) and the Kraken continued to struggle against impenetrable Wild defense keeping them to the perimeter and just out of scoring position.
At half time the score was tied up at 2-2. The 3rd quarter went much the same way, with the Wild scoring on a man up, strategically forcing turnovers with ball unders. Generally they were doggedly persistent in preventing the Kraken from getting shots off, with the score at quarter’s end 4-3 Wild (only the slightest bit of luck keeping the ball out of the net at least one more time).
The crowd of spectators was clearly VERY into the action, with lots of excitement at each of the critical plays. Parents watching on live stream were participating in their own way, and being somewhat unsure of the score were, frankly, getting a VERY stressed out as well.
The 4th quarter saw the Kraken regain their discipline, with a stubborn solid press defence, particularly at mid-pool, restricting the Wild’s shooting opportunities. Sound defense and a goal on a man up opportunity evened the score to 4 all. The Wild also continued their great defensive work, restricting shooting opportunities for most of the quarter. But the Kraken’s strengthening defense led to a crucial intercept from Etienne Lavoie Lemee, who quickly dished the ball off to Isaac Tanner for a shot which was beautifully saved by the Wild goalie. Luckily, though, KW got the ball back at 2m, and somehow managed to find a barely open Jack Willis at centre who ONLY through sheer determination buried the game winner from UNDERWATER, securing the lead making it 5-4 for KW!
At this point this Kraken correspondent was not entirely following the play due to levels of excitement and stress rarely witnessed pool side. Because of the lack of a dispassionate reporter’s eye, it was unclear how much time remained on the clock, or really what was happening in the pool. However, approximately 40 seconds (?) transpired, including MANY whistles, and one final save by the Kraken goaltender, the game concluded with the KW on top eking out the win 5-4!
That victory propelled the KW Kraken through to the GOLD MEDAL GAME on Sunday, versus Pool A’s top team...Calgary Mako Blue.
Gold Medal Game: Now, before you could say “A Shiver of Sharks” (look it up) the Mako Blue leapt out to a 3 goal lead, carrying that lead to the end of the 1st quarter. A large deficit to overcome, some might say insurmountable, but this was not the KW Kraken’s first rodeo (or Stampede). Through experience and composure, our local boys usually manage to pull ahead in the later stages of past games. Could they do it again?
This is not a horribly blurry photo, it is artistic. Kraken on D (Vic in net, but can’t ID others) vs Mako Blue.
The 2nd quarter saw the Kraken tally 3 huge unanswered goals, but Mako Blue responded with one of their own, leaving the 4-3 Mako Blue at the half.
The 3rd quarter again saw the Kraken pour on the pressure, with three MORE unanswered goals (one during a man up situation) catapulting them into the lead for the first time in the match.
It sat 6-4 KW at the beginning of the 4th. Unfortunately, foul trouble reared its ugly head again. With one KW player rolled out of the game, and one more with two kick outs, things were tenuous to say the least. But Mako Blue was not immune to kick outs either. They also were with a short bench and faced the same expulsion adversity. A late Mako Blue 5M shot made it 6-5 KW. But KW quickly responded with a stellar goal from Isaac Tanner restoring the gap at 2 goals. With 5 minutes remaining, it was still anyone’s to take. With some hard work and luck, a (TIC) intercept from Etienne Lavoie-Lemee, a (TAC) quick feed to Jack Johnson and a (TOE)- JAW DROPPING pass to Isaac Tanner who converted with another beauty, KW pulled away leading by 3.
More Kraken on D (Nikola in net).
Now Calgary’s Mako Blues started to make things fun, but admittedly risky. They attempted a tactical play by bringing the goalie forward over the halfway line to add to their offensive firepower. It almost paid off. Only frantic defensive efforts from the Kraken turning the ball over, led them to an empty net goal. The Mako Blues STILL did not give up though, fighting to the bitter end through a period where tempers very regrettably boiled over. With KW and Mako Blue notching one more goal each, the Gold Medal was decided by a score of 10-6 in favour of the Kraken.
And that is how our KW Kraken boys ended up bringing back a GOLD MEDAL from a tournament where the teams were fierce, always jostling for position, and nothing was certain.
The hardware was exciting for all the athletes, but especially the younger players. As Coach Evan pointed out, throughout the weekend the boys found their identity, developing individually, and as a team. This trip truly was a great experience both in and out of the pool.
Many thanks to Coach Evan for his enthusiasm, energy and professionalism throughout the trip. Thank you to Christine Neill for chaperoning and channelling Foster Hewitt for the fans back home. And many extra thanks to our Kraken Coaches who were back home Dorel, Brodie, and Ryan who have worked tirelessly ALL season long preparing this Krew every practice, every week!
Also, huge kudos need to go to the organizers of the Alberta Open for helping make the trip possible. The entire tournament was a fabulous experience in a wonderful facility. The live streaming was incredibly popular with the families back home, allowing them to see their Krakens in action!