It was a long anticipated match, one that puts the pre-game jitters into even the most competitive young hockey players every year. But as the Waterloo Wolves stepped onto the ice last Sunday – two Woolwich boys among them – the hockey gods were on their side.
After a 1-0 victory against Kitchener in the Toyota Cup Challenge, the AAA Minor Bantam Wolves will head to northern Japan for an exhibition game abroad during the March break.
St. Jacobs’ Keanan Stewart is looking forward to the camaraderie on the long trip. He’s no stranger to playing the game abroad after a previous hockey trip to Italy, but is looking forward to the experience that’s still a ways off.
“We get to bond with our team, it’s going to be fun,” Keanan said.
“Probably meeting the Japanese people and getting to know their country,” said Tyler McBay of Elmira of what he’s looking forward to.
This will be a first big out-of-country trip for the youth.
It was an exceptional game for the boys, one that saw a full arena of supporters at the Kitchener Auditorium, adding to the pressure of the event, said Wolves president Greg Best.The exhibition series run by Toyota uses the season’s regular games to decide a champion among the league’s Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo teams, culminating in last weekend’s face-off between Kitchener and Waterloo after the latter beat Cambridge 4-1 November 1.
It’s a game the kids look forward to every year, he added.
“The win on Sunday is definitely a compliment to the boys – it was a tight 1-0 game. The cross-town rivalry was in full swing on Sunday night. Both sides had their chances to win, coming right down to the last minute: Waterloo took a penalty and were short handed and managed to kill that off and hang on to the 1-0,” said Best.
“We were nervous at the start but then we got our nerves out after we laid our first hit; just a regular game after that,” said McBay.
The two boys have been playing with the team for five years. Both were looking for a high level of competition when they joined the Wolves AAA program.
The Waterloo AAA teams have a long history of including Woolwich players, for the competitive division, Best added.
Players will be joined by coaches, league representatives and two Toyota representatives on the March Break trip; the promise of watchful eyes is keeping the parents calm about the long trip and excited for the kids.
“I’m extremely happy for my son and the rest of the boys. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said mom Tammy McBay.
“It’s time for them to grow up, get away from the nest,” joked dad Art Stewart.
The Wolves take off for Hokkaido, Japan, the country’s second largest and northern-most island for some sightseeing and an exhibition match against the Tomakomai All Stars.