In youth hockey lingo Squirts means 10 years old and under. It’s the next step up from Mites, who are just beginning to get a feel for hockey, and a step below the Peewees, who are typically in junior high.
This past weekend the Squirts took center stage at the 24th Annual Ryan Mone Memorial Tournament. It was three days filled with early wake-up calls and late night play (for players and parents) as eight Squirts teams went head to head for 16 games.
“I think it’s a big deal for the kids,” tournament coordinator Andy Marek said. “You play four games in three days...there’s a lot of things you can work on in those three days.”
The Starhawks Youth Hockey Association, featuring players from the Northboro-Milford area, earned first place at the Squirts B level, and the Tri-County Saints went undefeated at the C level to take first place. The Vineyard Squirts were third at the B level and fourth at C.
Mr. Marek begins his planning when the youth hockey season opens in August, putting in an application with USA Hockey and Mass Hockey, the two governing bodies of the sport. Once the application is in, he waits for teams to contact him about participating.
“Rarely is it the same teams,” Mr. Marek said. This year squads came from across Massachusetts, including Nantucket and the Lower Cape.
Play began Friday night and continued through Sunday morning. Although the Cs fit in all of their scheduled games Friday, the Bs had to wait an extra day for all of their opponents to arrive. Nantucket and Lower Cape could not get to the Vineyard until Saturday. This made for a particularly challenging evening for the Squirt Bs, who had to play back-to-back against both teams with just ten minutes rest between.
“In our league, most of the time we play back-to-back games,” coach Geoghan Coogan said. “But they’re against the same team, not a fresh one.”
The Squirt Bs defeated Lower Cape 6-2, with Dylan Biggs, Will Bruguiere, John Coogan and Noah Smith each scoring a goal, and played a hard-fought contest against Nantucket in the second game. The teams were evenly matched throughout on defense, but an early Nantucket goal decided the game.
Coach Coogan has been working with the Squirt Bs since they were Mites. Most of the team has been playing together since they were four.
“I just love watching them get better,” he said, adding that learning how to lose was part of the game. “Their sportsmanship now is phenomenal.” The next day, before Nantucket took the ice for the championship game, the Vineyard Squirts offered high fives and good lucks.
“What makes me personally so happy is the camaraderie of all the teams,” said Gayle Mone. Mone Insurance, owned by Mrs. Mone’s husband Bob, sponsors the tournament each year. The event itself is named for the Mone’s son Ryan, a lifelong hockey player who died in a car accident in 1998. Ryan started his career at the arena and was “here all the time, one of the rink rats,” Mrs. Mone said.
The tournament has become “sort of a weekend event,” she said. Between Squirts games, the high school girls’ team took to the ice to compete, and a free public skating session was offered Saturday evening. Visiting teams traditionally go to the Wharf (owned by Coach Coogan’s brother Will) for a post-game meal, and this year all the teams were treated to on-site food as well. The Art Cliff truck was on hand throughout the tournament to provide early morning coffee and breakfast waffles, along with late-night macaroni and cheese (and more coffee for the parents). All of the proceeds were donated to Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey. Food was donated by Reliable Market, Morning Glory Farm, Island Food Products and Chilmark Coffee.
Martha’s Vineyard Youth Hockey president Kris Lukowitz said the dedication of the Squirts’ parents was outstanding, as moms and dads volunteered to keep score, sell raffle tickets and run the food truck.
“Here on the Island it’s a sport that brings everybody together,” Coach Coogan said.