During the last week of December the Toronto Estonian men’s hockey team took part in the Canadian Multicultural Hockey League winter tournament in hopes of winning the Heritage Bowl. This was the first time that the Estonian team had entered the CMHL winter tournament, having competed the previous spring in the much smaller tournament. At that tournament the Estonians had a small roster and were outmatched by their opponents, which resulted in some very humbling defeats. Having learned a great deal about the caliber of play, the Estonians took to the ice with a new, more youthful squad.
The first game of the tournament took place against the Russian Kremlins on Thursday, December 27th at Scarborough Centennial Arena. For the first couple minutes of the game the Russians had the Estonians pinned in their end, but because of some incredible goaltending by Tyler Vellend the score remained 0-0. It was a back-and-forth first period, with plenty of chances for both teams. However, the Russian team was the first on the scoreboard with a goal scored late in the period.
Knowing that they could skate with the speedy Russians, the Estonians replied shortly afterwards on a goal from Keaton Vellend, assisted by Markus Rosenberg. The game was tight-checking for the remainder of regulation, requiring overtime to decide a winner. Unfortunately for the Estonians, the Russians scored late in the third overtime to secure their victory.
On the second day of the tournament the Estonians had two games. The first was against the Finnish Sisu and the second against the United World team. Confident in their ability to skate with some one of the better teams in the division, the Estonians were ready for the Finns. With fewer players available for the afternoon game because of work commitments, the Estonians had nine players to counter the Finnish attack. Both teams fought hard for the duration of the game with the Estonians coming out on the loosing end 5-3. The Estonian goals were scored by youngsters, and newcomers to the team, 15-year-old Adam Migur and 17-year-old James Werner with a pair.
Having gone out for a team lunch between games the players returned to Weston Arena for their final contest against the United World. Being eliminated from the playoffs the Estonians were playing for national pride. It was a close game with teams exchanging scoring chances, and even a few penalties. The Estonians scraped and clawed for every scoring opportunity and were able to come out on top with a 4-2 victory! Robi Trei, Allan Marley and Rob Koger scored the Estonian goals.
While the Estonians did not end up advancing to the playoffs, the new young players show great promise for our chances in the future. Even tournament organizer, Stan Papulkas, who did not have a chance to see any of our games heard of our hard-fought, close games and is excited to see our competitiveness in the CMHL tournament improve over the years to come. It must be noted that both the Russians and Finns went on to the playoffs, with the Russians capturing the True North Division.
As always the team would like to thank their dedicated fans and especially the National Estonian Foundation of Canada for their continued support! Thanks also to team manager Paul Marley.
Toronto Estonian men’s hockey team competes in CMHL tournament