The Marathon Minor Hockey Association was proud to host the 2020 Atom Eastern Zone Championships this year at the Marathon Arena.
The Championship started on Thursday evening with the host Mercs opening against the Superior Stars. Prior to the game, Mayor Rick Dumas & Chief Duncan Michano helped open the weekend with remarks that highlighted the community relations Marathon and Biigtigong Nishnaabeg have. The Rising Buffalo Singers, youth drummers from Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, played a memorable honour song.
On the ice, the host Mercs took on the Superior Stars. In normal Mercs fashion, the first game of the tournament was one that disappointed on the scoreboard, as the Mercs lost 6-5 to the Stars. The Mercs this season have learned that championships are not given out after the first day, but we now had work to do to get us into the playoffs on Sunday.
Friday morning came early as the Mercs were on the ice to play against the Manitouwadge Copper Kings. The Mercs had a better game against the always improving Copper Kings, coming out with a 6-1 win. The Friday afternoon draw saw the Mercs take on the Filane’s Falcons. The last time the Mercs and Falcons played, the Falcons earned an upset win, the Mercs did not forget this as they hit the ice. The Mercs avenged that prior loss with a 6-1 victory. The evening draw saw the Mercs take on the talented Longlac Timberwolves. The end of the first period saw the game tied at 2-2. The Timberwolves scored 4 unanswered goals through the second and third to take the game 6-2.
Going into Saturday, the Mercs knew that they had their destiny in their own hands. They needed to beat both the Nipigon Elks – Blue and the Nipigon Elks – White to secure a spot in Championship Sunday. The Mercs were up to the task and defeated both Nipigon teams by identical 7-2 scores.
After the round robin, the Longlac Timberwolves were undefeated at 6-0 earning the first seed, the Superior Stars had 1 loss earning the second seed, the Mercs earned the third seed, while the Filane’s Falcons got past the Copper Kings in their last game to earn the fourth seed.
On Sunday, in the 2vs3 semi final, the Mercs had retribution on their mind once again as they were up against the Superior Stars. Throughout this season, the Mercs had a great rivalry with the Stars. The Stars were undefeated against the Mercs in round robin games, but the Mercs were undefeated against the Stars in playoff games. Today was going to be no different. The Mercs came out of the gate hot with 3 goals in the first 2 minutes. Once the game settled down, the Stars came back with 2 goals in the first, and 1 in the second to tie the game. If it was one thing the Mercs were learning throughout the year was how to deal with adversity. The Mercs calmed down, and there was no looking back as the Mercs took the semi final game 8-3, earning a spot in the Championship game.
The Stars would move on to earn the Bronze Medal with a win over the Filane’s Falcons.
In the Championship game, the Mercs were up against the undefeated Longlac Timberwolves. The game was tied after the first period 1-1, but the Timberwolves pulled ahead in the second with a 3-1 lead. The Mercs scored a quick one in the third to make it 3-2, but the Timberwolves answered with another to go up 4-2. The Mercs made it 4-3 with less than 5 minutes to play in the third, but the Timberwolves pulled ahead again to a 5-3 lead with just over a minute to play, then sealed it with an empty net goal for a 6-3 win.
The Mercs capped off a successful season on the ice with a hard-earned Silver medal in front of their hometown fans. The players and families all appreciated the support they received over this weekend and throughout the season.
Over the year, the Mercs earned Gold medals in tournaments in Longlac and Nipigon. They earned Silver medals at their annual home tournament, as well at the Robins Tournament in Thunder Bay. That makes 5 appearances in Championship games this year, with 2 losses in semi-final games throughout the season.
A big thank you goes out to the coaching staff and team volunteers from this season. Some volunteers had more prominent roles if their schedules accommodated, while others did what they could within their schedules to help when possible. Every bit of our volunteer’s time was greatly appreciated. Team volunteers are Jason Harbluk, Byron Lackey, Kent Readman, Mike Dumas, Steve Ryan, Tessa Souckey, Stephanie Michano-Drover, Nicole Lowndes and Sarah Kellner.