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Leafs Pee Wees Win The "Stanley Cup of Youth Hockey"

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With the hours counting down toward his team's appearance in the championship game of the International Silver Stick tournament January 25 in Port Huron, Mich., coach Butch Treiber looked at his players and got nervous.

"They were so calm and confident," Treiber said of his group of 12- and 13-year-olds, who played video games and lounged around their hotel after dispatching the powerful Omaha Junior Mavericks 4-3 in the morning's semi-final. "It was a little scary."

Treiber's Leafs were scary enough in the final, beating the Old York (Pennsylvania) Road Raiders 4-1 to bring home the West Dundee-based hockey club's second Silver Stick title in three years. Silver Stick is the oldest hockey tournament in North America and hosts the winners of regional contests across the United States and Canada.

The Leafs were the only U.S. team among the five champions crowned at different age and skill levels at the four-day, 47th annual International Silver Stick tournament in Port Huron. Each player took home a Silver Stick championship pin in the shape of a silver hockey stick.

The pin is considered an heirloom by players who have won one. Indeed, so prestigious is the tournament that a plaque bearing the name of each winning team sits in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for the remainder of the year.

"It's the Stanley Cup of amateur youth hockey," Treiber said.

Chris Goc walked in alone and scored in close to put the Pee Wee AA-level Leafs on top early in Sunday's title game, and the Leafs never looked back after the Road Raiders tied the game later in the period. Zach Flasch scored two straight goals, one on a perfect centering pass from Ken Shemanske. Zach Schingoethe added a third-period tally, and goaltender Cory Wasilewski delivered a series of big saves that deflated the Road Raiders.

Leaf defensemen Kyle Lavand, John Valverde, Brad Schodin, and Joe Wilkinson shut down attacking forwards for the most of the tournament. Forwards Rick Raclawski, Connor Durkin, Casey Romeiser, and Sam Deihs pressured opponents while Tom Treiber lifted the Leafs with three goals in the team's quarterfinal and semifinal wins. Goaltenders Wasilewski and Tony Fuentes split the netminding duties, with Fuentes in net for the semifinal win.

The championship was especially sweet for coach Treiber, who saw his son Tom and goalie Fuentes help keep the Silver Stick championship in their families. On the coach's 2007 Pee Wee Leaf team, Tom Treiber's brother Rich and Fuentes's brother Michael took home the coveted Silver Stick championship pin.

" To win it even once is unusual, but to have two teams winning with two sets of brothers is really spectacular for our club," Treiber said.

The Leafs field hockey teams at all age levels and run a popular learn-to-skate program on Saturday mornings at the Leafs Ice Centre at 801 Wesemann Drive near the intersection of Randall Road and Route 72 in West Dundee. For more information on Leafs Hockey Club and Ice Centre programs, call 847-844-8700.

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