On the first weekend of November, the Toronto Marlboros 2001 team blew into the windy city of Chicago for the Chicago Bauer International Tournament.
With 408 teams, 9000 players and coaches participating from 5 Canadian provinces, 32 states, and Europe, this is the largest AAA tournament in the world. The theme of the 2011 Bauer Invitational Invite was "Everything Matters More" which truly highlighted the desire, heart and dedication of all participating players.
In the 2001 age group, there were a total of 36 teams split into two divisions. There were 16 teams in the "AAA Elite" Division and 20 teams in the "AAA" Division. The Marlies were competing in the AAA Elite division. Each team would play every team in their bracket once. Teams were then ranked 1 through 4 in each division with all 16 teams after the round robin advancing to the sweet sixteen.
The Marlies first game Friday morning was against Florida Alliance. The Marlies went up 2-0 early in the first period and played strongly for the rest of the game securing a solid win of 5-0.
In their second game of the tournament later that afternoon, the Marlies faced some strong competition from Honeybaked from Michigan. Honeybaked is currently ranked in the top 5 of all US teams and recruits players from all over the state. The game ended with a 3-0 loss.
Saturday morning, the Marlies played Team Illinois, also ranked in the top 5 of the US teams. The Marlies fought hard and secured a 5-2 win.
Heading into the Sweet Sixteen Round, the Marlies had finished 2nd.
Saturday evening, the Marlies faced the Boston Junior Eagles in a "must win" game. While the Marlies were up 2-0 at the end of the first, Boston came on strong. The game ended 4-3 with the Marlies moving to the next round.
After the Boston game, Marlies Head Coach Louie Gialedakis gave the boys some advice. He told them that they had to give their best effort in every game. They need to be rested and prepared with full attention on the game at hand. In order to fully realize their potential, they need to be focused on and committed to themselves and the team and if this happens, positive results will follow. The boys took this to heart which has been evidenced in the intensity and hard work they have demonstrated in their games since.
In the Quarter-finals on Sunday morning, the Marlies were up against the Mississauga Senators, one of their GTHL rivals. While the Marlies took an early lead, the Senators scored three quick goals to move ahead 3-1. The Marlies fought back and tied the game sending it into overtime. After four on four sudden death overtime for 5 minutes, the game was still tied. The second 5 minute period of sudden death overtime was 3 on 3. The Marlies scored 2 minutes into double overtime to advance to the semi finals.
In the Semi-final match, the Marlies faced the Falcons from Illinois. While the Falcons took a very early lead, the game ended in a 2-2 tie. First came 4 on 4 sudden death overtime. The game was still tied at the end of 5 minutes. After another 5 minutes of 3 on 3 sudden death overtime, the game was still tied. Next came a nail-biting shootout. It could have been anyone's game. The arena was packed. First, each team picked 5 players. No clear winner emerged after the first round of the shootout so it became a sudden death shootout. After a total of 22 shooters (11 from each side), the Marlies were defeated. While it was an unfortunate ending to an amazing tournament, the Marlies had fought a strong battle and had emerged as a stronger, more experienced team.
Tournaments such as the Bauer International AAA Invite allow players to demonstrate what they have learned while giving them a chance to raise their game against elite competition. The Marlies demonstrated exceptional athletic ability and skill. They played with confidence and a positive outlook. Most importantly, the boys had fun and enjoyed being with their team-mates and families and creating memories that will last a lifetime.