February 02, 2011 - Three hockey players from Sashabaw Middle School are ready to cross the border and go to Canada.
|Roman Kinal, Paul Washe and Mitch Lewandowski, with their Little Caesars '98 Head Coach Frank Scarpaci, are ready for Quebec. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)|
Seventh-grader Mitch Lewandowski and sixth-graders Roman Kinal and Paul Washe, along with their Little Caesars '98 hockey team are competing in the 52nd Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament.
"The tournament is the world series of little league for hockey," said Frank Scarpaci, head coach. "Our team has been building for this for five years. It is always a goal to win every tournament we go into. We are a good enough team it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to think we could possibly do it."
The team can do it - especially after clinching their second consecutive Tier 1 League Championship after winning each of their four games in the league showcase.
The three anticipate a lot of competition and experience from the teams they will face in Quebec.
"The competition is going to be the best in the world," said Scarpaci, adding countries in their 20-team bracket are Russia, Slovackia and the Czech Republic in the AA Elite Division, the highest division.
Over 75 teams are going to play in Quebec in the five different divisions from Feb. 10-20.
All three bring something different to Little Caesars '98 to help the team succeed. Lewandowski, in his five years on the team, brings leadership and competing well. Kinal brings energy and Washe admitted he brings some feistiness to the game.
"We are a better team than most anyone else in the country whether we match up talent wise or not," said Scarpaci. "What all of our boys bring is an extremely high work ethic - that is where our success comes from. Everyone on our team plays a role, we have specific things we try to accomplish as a team. Basically our motto is 'everyone pulls the wagon in the same direction.'"
The boys will play in the Pepsi Coliseum in a crowd from 6,000 to 10,000 during the games. The championship will have up to 18,000 people in the stands.
They play the New Jersey Colonials in their first game. It will air on television and the team will be asked to sign autographs and do television and radio interviews.
"It's an honor," said Kinal. "Usually you are the one asking for autographs. When we go out there we will be asked to sign."
The boys have already practiced, Scarpaci added. They signed frisbees before they went on the ice for warm-ups a few weeks ago.
The boys are focused to go and win the tournament. It is also the first year they will allow checking in the tournament.
"We have the determination to be the best," said Lewandowski.
"This is an extremely big deal," said Scarpaci. "You can talk to any player in the NHL right now making millions of dollars a year and ask them about their moments. If they haven't won a Stanley Cup they will talk about attending this tournament as being one of the highlights of their hockey career."
"We will probably remember it for the rest of our lives," said Washe.
"It will be a lot of fun," added Kinal.
Washe is the son of Paul and Lori, Kinal is the son of Roman and Cheryl and Lewandowski is the son of Bob Lewandowski and Jill Stout.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.