The 10th Mega Tournament was, arguably, the most successful one in its history. And with 21 teams in total competing in the Pee Wee, Bantam, and Midget, divisions, it was definitely the largest.
"It was a very good turnout and I was very surprised and happy about it," says Lake Melville Xtreme President Shawn Brown.
The tournament, which ran Jan. 25-27, certainly has grown over the years. In the very first Mega Tournament, there were just four teams, all competing in the Midget division.
"It's a well organized and well run tournament and people enjoy coming here. And there's good hockey from all over Labrador," says Brown on the rapid growth of the event.
Although it was just an invitational tournament, the level of play was intense at the E.J. Broomfield Memorial Arena. With teams competing from Labrador West, Lake Melville, Blanc Sablon, Sheshatshiu, and Natuashish, there were a lot of old rivalries being renewed. The teams were playing like there was a lot of pride on the line, and it showed in the entertaining games that took place.
"I think everyone likes to have bragging rights for their home community to win," said Brown. "A tournament atmosphere is always a little bit different. People put a little bit extra into it. Everyone likes to bring home the medals and the banners."
The talented teams that came in from Labrador West and Blanc Sablon gave the Lake Melville teams good competition during the weekend; almost too good. Towards the end of the round robin, it looked like no local team would qualify for any of the championship games. Teams from Labrador City and Blanc Sablon earned trips to the finals in the Pee Wee and Bantam divisions. So Goose Bay's lone hope for a banner was in the hands of the Warr's Warriors Midget team.
But Warr's was going to need some help from Labrador West to make it to the championships. In the very last game of round robin, two Lab City teams - Office Works/CMV and O'Connells - squared off. Whoever won that game would go up against The Blanc Sablon Chiefs in the championship game. If they tied, however, Warr's would advance based on a better goal differential.
No one at the arena thought it would happen. But with the clock winding down in the third period, the score was 1-1. With under a minute to go, O'Connells pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. All Office Works had to do was throw the puck into the open net, and Warr's hope for a championship match would have been crushed. The game ended in a tie, however, and Warr's went on to meet the Chiefs for the banner.
The Midget championship game between Warr's Warriors and the Blanc Sablon Chiefs was the last game of the entire tournament, and it turned out to be a climatic finale. The game was hard fought, and not much separated the two teams in terms of skill.
Going into the third period, the Chiefs held a 1-0 lead. That's when the drama and the excitement began in a seesaw battle between the two rivals. It started when Jeremy Billard blasted a shot from the point and picked the top corner, glove-side, to tie the game at one.
The chiefs responded less than a minute later when their star player, Josh McKinnon, put a rebound past Warr's goalie Chris O'Dell to regain the lead.
But Warr's didn't give up. Less than three minutes later, Tyler Baker put another glove-side point shot past Chief's goalie Maxine Levesque to tie it up once again.
With under two minutes to go, everyone at the E.J. Broomfield arena was sensing overtime. But Blanc Sablon had other ideas. Josh Mckinnon scored his second goal of the third period to give the Chiefs a 3-2 lead, with only 1:58 remaining on the clock.
Mckinnon would seal the deal by scoring an empty netter, ensuring that the Chiefs would take home the Midget division banner. Blanc Sablon also won the Bantam division banner, and nearly won the Pee Wee one as well.
Although no teams from the Lake Melville Xtreme minor hockey program won a banner, it was still a very memorable tournament for those who participated and those who watched.