After that drumstick, try Silver Stick hockey

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

November 23, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

IF YOU need a sports break this coming holiday weekend to put turkey behind you and ignore that urge to shop, drop in to a game or two at an event that has become a local Thanksgiving weekend fixture.

That's the eastern regional Silver Stick youth hockey tournament, hosted by the Howard Huskies. The tournament is centered at Columbia Ice Rink but will be contested, as well, on rinks at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel and at Piney Orchard, near Fort Meade.

The Silver Stick is a big deal in youth hockey, with age-group winners here advancing to the international - Canada and the United States - tournament in January in greater metropolitan Port Huron, Mich., about an hour north of Detroit. Games are played in Port Huron and across the nearby Canadian border.

What will be occurring here is microcosm of regionals throughout North America that will include more than 63,000 participants competing in a tournament founded on a much smaller scale in Canada in 1958. Teams from as far south as Huntsville, Ala., and as far north and west as Vancouver Island, British Columbia, compete.

Two Huskies teams made it to Port Huron last winter, and they weren't the first.

So, pick any time between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Friday or Saturday and until 3 p.m. next Sunday, and you'll find games at one or maybe all of those local rinks. The Gardens is off Old Gunpowder Road, not far from Howard County's southern border, and Piney Orchard is off Route 175.

You'll find 115 games involving 66 teams from seven states, stretching from New York to North Carolina and west into the Pittsburgh area. Age groups range from the under-8 "mites" (to apply USA Hockey's annoying, condescending, not to mention antiquated naming system for youth players), to the under-10 "squirts," the under-12 "peewees," the under-14 "bantams", the "midget under-16s," and the "under -18 midgets."

Yuk.

Anyway, boys (and a few girls) in most of those brackets also will be divvied into skill levels: the A's and the Double-A's, with the latter being a notch above in skills but a tick below the Triple-A's, who tend to come from more winter-absorbed parts of the nation, such as the Minnesotas and Maines of the continent.

Each team entered is guaranteed at least three games, after which knockout play begins, with age-group titlists to be decided next Sunday.

And that, in the words of Cheryl Post, a hockey and soccer mom who has become the Huskies' volunteer leader for marketing, makes for "a very full weekend."

For Post herself, it will mean following the fortunes of her son Sam and daughter Amanda's teams in, respectively, the - ugh - squirts and peewees.

Hockey in the Post household got started when Sam got in-line skates as a gift when he was 5, then went with a friend to a real hockey game and said he wanted to try that, too, said Mom Post. Amanda, who also plays travel soccer, decided that skating looked like fun, as well.

Speaking of girls

Girls teams from Howard County did a lot of winning in the tough Washington Area Girls Soccer leagues this fall.

Who knows what it means in the bigger picture, such as high school in another few years, but six age-group teams won their respective divisions. Five played for the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County, and one was from the west county-based Thunder Soccer Club. Only one boys team took a title in the equally competitive National Capital Soccer League.

SAC/HC's under-12 premier team was the only Division I girls titlist, with a 7-2-0 record, but two of that club's under-16 teams won in lower divisions, as did under-15 and under-11 teams.

The Thunder's sweep of the under-18 Division II title with a 9-0-0 record was probably sweetest of all, with opponents outscored, 40-1.

Backers felt the team should have been in Division I, the "big league," if you will, after being runner-up in Division II this spring. But, as described on the Thunder's Web site: "WAGS bureaucrats ... inexplicably decided not to promote [our team to Division I] for the fall season, the only second-place team not to be promoted in all of WAGS."

So the girls clinched their title in style in a game of unbeaten opponents, ripping BSU Freedom, 6-0, blowing the game open with three goals in 10 minutes of the second half. The team began as an under-14 club that got into WAGS in Division V and has worked its way up.

How about some tips on interesting people and teams in winter sports? Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@balt sun.com.

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