Space Coast Blast Sled Hockey represented the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL Sled Classic in St. Louis, MO from Nov. 21-24. After winning Tier IV last year, the Blast moved up to Tier III this year.
The Blast finished 3-1 after round robin play against Carolina, Edmonton, Colorado and Anaheim, losing only to the Anaheim Ducks and advanced to the championship game as the #2 seed. The championship game was a rematch with Anaheim.
Blast defenseman Nate Winters scored the first goal of the championship game in the 1st off a great pass from Tony Martinez. Brett Bolton scored goal #2 for the Blast in the 2nd. Pressure from the forwards, solid defense and excellent goaltending from Harry Benson in the scoreless 3rd period secured the 2-0 victory. The Blast gave up only 4 goals in their 5 tournament games.
The team enjoyed sightseeing in St. Louis, checking out the Stanley Cup and catching up with friends on other teams from across the country.
The Space Coast Blast Sled Hockey team, reigning USA Under 18 National Champions, added U-18 World Champions to their already impressive resume. The Blast participated in the 1st ever Youth International Sled Hockey Invitational from Oct 30-Nov. 3, along with previous USA champions the Hope Inc. Hurricanes from Fargo, ND, the Grand Rapids Sled Wings from Michigan and a National All Star Team from Russia.
Yes you read that correctly, a sled hockey team from warm, sunny Florida defeated a National All Star Team from Russia in the championship.
Over the weekend tournament in Grand Rapids, MI, the Space
Coast Blast finished with an overall record of 3-1. Their only loss was in the
first game of the tournament to Russia 2-1. Game two was a come from behind 4-2
victory over rival the Hope Inc. Hurricanes from Minnesota and Fargo, North
Dakota. A 6-0 victory over the Grand Rapids Sled Wings in game three guaranteed
the Blast a rematch with Russia in the championship.
In the championship, the Big 5 starting line-up of Brett Bolton, Nick Witkowski, Jayden Debiram, Tony Martinez and Tripp Skinner sparked the team and stunned the Russians with a goal by Bolton in the first 46 seconds of play.
The second goal scored by Captain Skinner in the 3rd secured the win.
Blast goalie Sean Gallagher played outstanding in net keeping the Russians off the scoreboard, his second shutout of the tournament. S. Gallagher was backed by solid defense from Witkowski, Martinez and Skinner. Forwards Jayden Debiram, Madeleine Gallagher, Logan Eising and pusher Sophie Szymula and Sebastian Hardcastle kept the pressure on the Russian goalie and defense all game. Head Coach Lee Skinner was supported by Assistant Coaches Amanda Martori and Liam Fitzgerald and a large group of parents and friends in the stands and back home in Florida.
In addition to completive sled hockey games, the teams
participated in joint practices, fun activities and meals together. Our players
broke the ice on the first night and used Google Translate to talk with and learn
about their Russian competitors. After that all four teams enjoyed learning
about different cultures and meeting other top youth sled hockey players from
around the USA and Russia.