By Phillip Goodman
Team Canada edged out Team USA to win the First Annual CanAm Classics Cup at Reno Ice by a narrow two-goal differential as the teams split the two-game series. On Friday night Team Canada won 7-4 then Team USA rebounded in Saturday’s matinee for a 5-4 win. By outscoring Team USA 11-9 for the weekend, Team Canada took home the impressive trophy.
The biggest winner of the weekend was the JUSTin HOPE Foundation which garnered over $5,000 in charitable donations. Board of Directors from the Jennifer M. O'Neal Community Ice Arena Joel Grace, Cam Sorenson, and Chris O’Neal presented a check for $2,500 to Art and Justin Reitz on Friday. On Saturday, Scheels (of Sparks) presented another check to the Reitz’s for $2,500 with Chris Adgett representing the sporting goods store which is also a major contributor to Reno Ice. Many fans in attendance at the two sold-out games also chipped in cash at the Foundation’s info table to make for an incredibly successful event.
Dan Rowan, an Alberta native who landed in Reno after college hockey in Vermont is now a Reno Ice Youth Coach and close friend of the Reitz family. Rowan said the idea of an international contest started with some text messages and as word spread it evolved into the charity event.
“It all came about organically,” said Rowan, who had two assists on the weekend for Team Canada. “We didn’t have enough room for everyone that wanted to play.”
Rosters were composed of four Reno Ice Raiders along with local Reno Ice A-Leaguers plus friends and past teammates that came into Reno from around North America. Blaine Bugg for Canada and Adam Lang for USA were tremendous in net both nights for their respective teams as each goaltender matched the other with the 1-1 record.
Friday’s game saw Canada jump out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Chad Peters (Manitoba) and Reno Ice Raider Charlie Montgomery (British Columbia). USA responded with three straight tallies by Reno Ice Board Member and youth coach Chris O’Neal, Kevin Sunde, and Ice Raiders’ Captain Andrew Peterson.
After former pro Ryan Shmyr tied the score 3-3 late in period two, Team Canada pulled away in the third with shorthanded goals by Montgomery and Kevin Gardiner (Alberta). Gardiner added one more before Sunde would get the Americans as close as 4-6 before Ice Raider Keegan Jones (British Columbia) sealed the victory with a goal with two minutes remaining.
Saturday’s contest was equally exciting and fast paced. Leads seesawed back and forth throughout the game and neither team ever extended their lead beyond one goal. Canada started the scoring again less than four minutes in on a tally by Keegan Jones. Garret Sliger and John Beug scored 31 seconds apart for Team USA to take a 2-1 lead until Holden White’s (Alberta) first period buzzer beater sent the two teams to the locker room tied at two each.
Team Canada carried that momentum 18 ticks into the second frame as Geoff Liska (Alberta) gave Canada its first and only lead of the game at 3-2. Team USA responded with a steal and a snipe by Jeff Moran for the tie then a go-ahead power play goal by Sliger. Two minutes later Montgomery netted his third goal of the weekend for the 4-4 tie and that score would hold through a tightly contested third period.
Three Reno regulars connected for the game winner with 1:17 remaining. Ice Raiders’ defenseman Tony Tyrell and Reno Ice Coach Kevin Sunde assisted on Andrew Peterson’s wrister that found the back of the net for the 5-4 win.
“Once Tony made the pass up to Chris he had a guy coming at him pretty fast so I was shouting to him to move the puck over quickly as I had a clear shot on net,” Peterson said of the game winning play. “[Chris] made a great one-touch pass over to me and I saw the left side of the net fairly open with a lot of traffic in front so I tried to pick the corner as best I could and it went in.”
Had Team USA won by three goals on Saturday, a shootout would have determined the tiebreaker for the CanAm Cup champion.
“It was a good feeling getting the win on Saturday but hats off to Canada for securing the series,” Peterson added. “I’m grateful they allowed some of the Ice Raiders to play but it was really about giving the men’s league guys a chance to play a competitive series in front of fans and experience that real-game atmosphere. To have a charity out and playing for a good cause made the weekend a huge success.”
The final tally of over $5,000 raised for the foundation far exceeded Rowan’s and the Foundation’s hopes for the weekend.
“That blew our mind away,” Rowan said. “The fans had fun, the sponsors were quite pleased with it, and all our players had a blast.”
The mission of the JUSTin HOPE Foundation is to give hope to families and individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) by promoting inclusion and creating opportunities through education/training and family support to maximize the individual’s potential, states the website justinhope.org.
“I would say one of our biggest impacts has been mandating the first-responder training on interacting with individuals with IDD through legislation and conducting the training throughout the state,” said Caroline Reitz, mother of Justin and local chocolatier at Sierra Nevada Chocolates in Midtown. “Our initiative now is employment and housing which we hope to achieve this year.”
In addition to needing cash donations to fund their programs for community safety, family support, and caregiver respite services, JUSTin HOPE Foundation is also looking for volunteers to and in-kind donations to aid their cause. Please go to justinhope.org today to help this outstanding organization.
More enormous thanks goes to The Parlor, Bevy Long Drink, and Morrey Distributing for contributing to the spectacular jerseys and delicious postgame events. Head over to The Parlor at Winners Crossing on S. Virginia St. and Huffaker Ln. for food, fun, and gaming 24-hours a day.