The underdogs turned out to be the top dogs at the Flatt & Scruggs Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., over Thanksgiving weekend.
The Anaheim Jr. Ducks’ 16U A team went through the tournament undefeated, capping their four-game run with a 6-3 triumph over the Nashville Flyers.
That was icing on the cake to what was a hugely fun and beneficial weekend for the 16Us.
“We’ve been wanting to go to Nashville for a while,” coach Mike Lozeau said. “It’s a well-run tournament and everyone had a great time. I’d highly recommend it to other teams.”
One of the keys to the Jr. Ducks’ success was a piece of tape that Lozeau affixed to a wall in the locker room before every game.
“I kept putting a white piece of tape on the wall and wrote ‘underdogs’ on it,” Lozeau said. “I wanted them to stay humble and competitive. They’re a pretty good team and they know it. That seemed to pump them up.
“The tournament had very physical games. The boys handled it really well.”
After a 6-1 victory over a team from Florida, they played the Marauders, an all-star team from Tennessee and tied 3-3, getting three even-strength goals to the Marauders’ three power-play strikes. The Jr. Ducks also defeated the Flyers, 4-2, in round-robin play.
“It (the final) was a tough game, 2-2 at the end of the second,” Lozeau said. “We came on strong as we normally do. We’re a third period team. We’ve done that locally, too.
“Our goalie, Aidan Maltby, was our MVP. He’s been outstanding, especially in the championship game. He carried us through.”
Other team members include forwards Hunter Boyd, Aaron Galindo, Justin Gonzales, Preston Patz, Dean Praet, Kenneth Romig, Gordon Siple, Aleksandr Suvorov and Timothy Wilks; and defensemen Mitchel Lozeau, Patrick Navin, Kyle Pennington, Nicholas Reith and Logan Schaefer.
The Jr. Ducks were treated to a taste of home and got to meet some familiar faces in the faraway place in the process.
“We saw the Ducks play the Predators, and the kids found out where the Ducks were practicing,” Lozeau said. “A lot of our kids got to talk to Ducks players after watching a pro practice. Several of the Ducks came over after and signed a bunch of the kids’ sticks. It was a great memory.
“To be able to take a trip like this speaks to what a great group of parents we have.”
The team’s progression – it’s also above .500 in SCAHA play thus far – has been accelerated by the club’s emphasis on development, Lozeau added.
“Our director of coaches, Craig Johnson, has been really good,” Lozeau said. “He’s been pushing coaches to learn more and how to coach better. He’s put on quite few coaching clinics for us in conjunction with USA Hockey.
“Being a (USA Hockey) Model Organization has worked out really well. I’ve learned high-level drills, with multi-touch passes and movement. We saw again in this tournament how it’s paying off a lot for our kids.
“And it keeps my drills fresh on the ice so the boys aren’t getting bored during practice. There are always challenges for them now, and that’s a direct result of Craig and USA Hockey.”
Assistant coach Nathan Ticorat, dryland coach Steven Strother and manager Sandra Sagert round out Lozeau’s staff.