'It’s Miracle on Ice all over:' Upstate kids top Canadians in international hockey event – Greenville News


The hockey universe has just been turned upside down.

Here’s the evidence: It its first year of existence, a youth hockey association based in Greenville County has taken home the gold by defeating Canada in the Junior Nations Cup tournament in Detroit. In three out of six divisions.

And they did it without even having a home rink. And with a goalie playing with a broken back. And a girl on the team.

“People were like, ‘Wow, you guys are from the Carolinas?’ They couldn’t believe it,” said Luc de Gaspe Beaubien of Easley, who coaches goalies on the 13-and-under team that clinched the national title.

His son, Jean-Luc de Gaspe Beaubien, was one of the winning goalies – the one with a broken back.

To hear Luc tell it, there was high drama in this smackdown between the powerhouse Canadians and the upstarts from the Carolina Rage Hockey Club.

“It’s Miracle on Ice all over,” he said.

The event was organized by Legacy Global Hockey.

The Carolina Rage – which actually includes players from as far south as Savannah, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida, and north to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina – has impressed National Hockey League trainer Brad Michalski so much that he’s moving his family from Pittsburgh to Greenville to get his kids involved, according to Luc.

“We’re taking local kids that are very athletic and it’s amazing the result,” said Luc, who, you might guess by his name, has some French Canadian blood. “They couldn’t believe it up there.”

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So here’s how the tournament unfolded, and how our unlikely champions upset the mighty Canadians, who live and breathe hockey.

Each country put five teams on the ice in the 05 Bronze Division – for kids born in 2005.

In the first game, on Nov. 23, The Carolina Rage played Canada’s LasSalle Sabres to a 2-2 draw. But the remarkable thing was that the Canadians made 42 shots at the goal and got only 2 through. The Rage shot only four times.

“The buzz was around the rink: You’ve got to come see these goalies from South Carolina. They’re something else,” Luc said.

In the next game, our local heroes defeated the Burlington Jr. Cougars, 6-1.

The 11 and under Carolina Rage team, poses for a photo after helping the US beat Canada in an international tournament in Detroit last week. The team includes players from across the Southeast, including Will Maness of Greenville, top right. (Photo: provided)

In game 3, the following day, the Rage battled to another tie – even though they got outshot 42-14. I don’t know anything about hockey, but according to Luc, if a goalie saves 9 out of 10 shots, he’s considered outstanding. According to my math, our goalies topped that mark in both their tie games, this one a 3-3 draw with the Whitby Wildcats.

Then, in the five-game championship round, on Nov. 25, the top three teams from each country faced off to determine which nation would take home the gold.

 The USA’s Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks won the first game 5-0, followed by the Rochester Rattlers (USA) taking the second match 7-0.

That gave the Carolina Rage the opportunity to clinch the title – which they did, with a 3-1 victory over the Whitby Wildcats. The USA won the division title with an 8-2 mark in points awarded to each country in the matches.

“We surprised the heck of the Canucks up there,” said Luc.

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In addition to Luc’s son, Quinn Sitzman of Greenville and Haley Anderson from Greer, are the Upstate members of the team. Craig Johnson is the head coach.

The Bronze Division means hitting isn’t allowed unless both coaches agree to it – which they did, Luc said. Haley, the only girl on the team, was doing her share of that.

The 12 and under Carolina Rage team poses after helping the US beat Canada in an international youth hockey tournament in Detroit. Players from the Upstate are Dawson Anderson, far right; Brayden Youngblood, second from left; Nick Fabio, fourth from left; and James Parnell, sixth from left. (Photo: provided)

“She’s throwing hits and the boys are going flying,” he said. “She is not afraid.”

He attributes his son’s ability to play with a broken back to the fine orthopedic doctors with the Greenville Health System.

While the 05 team was upsetting the 13 and under Canadians, the Carolina Rage 06 and 07 teams, coached by Darren Anderson and Neil Gerspach, were also on their way to helping the US win championships in their divisions.

The teams’ performances were so impressive that a retired college hockey coach who worked at the arena where the games were being played called up a scout from the Detroit Redwings to watch them play, Luc said.

“He couldn’t believe it. He goes, ‘these kids are in condition. They’ve got heart. They don’t quit. This is incredible. We never would have expected this from a bunch of boys in the South.’”

Darren Anderson, co-founder of the Carolina Rage and head coach of the 06 team, tried to explain to me how the organization, in its first year, has been able to attain such a high level of play, without even having a home rink.

“With the handicaps we have we’ve still been able to figure out a way to compete at the national level,” he said.

How do they get those great players from across the Southeast? “Talent attracts talent,” Luc said.

They practice at the Pavilion in Taylors and in Irmo, which is actually their base. Most of the youth hockey associations around the country and in Canada have their own rinks, according to Luc.

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A big part of the program’s success lies, I think, in a philosophy that sounds a lot like Dabo Swinney’s.

“We’re trying to build it the right way, teaching them the right things and bringing up good little gentlemen along the way,” said Chuck Fabio, assistant coach of the 06 team.

I never thought of hockey as a gentlemanly sport, but if you can drive nine hours to Michigan and summarily whip the powerhouse teams from a country where hockey is the national sport, it seems to me you’ve got something remarkable going.

If you want to find out more about the Carolina Rage, you can go to their website, www.carolinaragehockey.com.

 

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