It was a roller-coaster ride watching the Squirt C hockey team this season. With four losses in the first four games, things were not looking great. But behind the scenes things could not have been any better. The little team was growing in every sense, supporting each other and gaining confidence. Coaches Julie Hatt and Travis Thurber were teaching, giving these kids more than just hockey moves. The 11 players were given a weekly feed of encouragement and locker room motivational speeches, and the kids were listening.

They all worked hard, playing double headers most weekends. They got strong and built endurance.

Before Christmas there were signs of potential. Goalie Mike Trance showed up every practice to impart his wisdom and moves with team goalie Cathal Robinson, who was playing his first season between the pipes.

Slowly the team began a turnaround, and after their first win, they got a taste for victory. They developed an unbeatable team spirit and a style of their own. Quite adorable to watch, they became their own best coaches. Coaches Julie and Travis gave them trust and respect, and taught them one very important lesson: never give up.

This past weekend in the Charles Moore Ice Arena in Orleans, the Squirt Cs took on their counterparts from across New England in the Lower Cape spring tournament.

In the game against Waltham, the Squirts took on a well-trained and disciplined team. Waltham’s fans were many and the air was electric. We Island parents shouted a little louder and cheered a little longer. In the end our team did the Vineyard proud. They won their first game 4-2.

Saturday morning brought on the might of North Rhode Island, and in a tough game the Vineyard Squirts won 5-1.

Tired after a long, hot day, the team faced off with the Groton team that afternoon and by the second period it was tense, with a score of 3-3 — and this was where all the positive coaching came into play. When the pressure was on them, the Squirts picked up the energy level and went on to score six more goals, finishing 9-3 and earning a place in the finals on Sunday as the only undefeated team.

The team suffered a setback when Ian Trance got a stomach bug the night before the final game and had to sit it out on the bench. Promising a win, Kyle Hatt and Wilson Slayton played great defense the whole game against North Rhode Island. Wilson stuck one in the net to light the fire under the team, and Hunter Ponte followed it with another. The whole team played great hockey — the forechecking of the team’s two Jacks (Murray and Garrett), the backchecking of Layla Buckley and Ellie Hanjian, and the gritty, unrelenting hustle of Cabot Thurber and Justin Alexander. Cathal Robinson guarded the net as if his life depended on it, and with fortified defense and tenacious back-checking, the team awarded themselves a beautiful shutout. The hugs were joyous when the final buzzer rang around the rink.

It has been a wonderful experience to watch these kids reach their dreams and goals. They had fun, they played together and they played hard. They wanted to bring a trophy home and add it to the glass case collection in the warm room of the arena. They wanted to feel like champions — and now they are.

Islanders can check out pictures of the games online at

The Squirt Cs and the Squirt Bs, who also won their tournament, will team play for the league championship this weekend at the Kennedy arena in Barnstable. We wish them well!

— Lara Robinson