Posted Monday, Nov. 30 6:29pm

Thanksgiving Tournament

WOODRIDGE , IL-- The Quad City Ice Eagles finished second in the Wishbone Classic Tournament held Thanksgiving weekend At the Seven Bridges Ice Arena, dropping a 1-0 heartbreaker to the Oak Lawn Vikings in the championship game final Sunday afternoon. The loss capped off an exciting weekend of great hockey competition, filled with exuberant highs and one devastating low. Ice Eagle Left Wing Brian Moriarty suffered a season-ending leg injury during the Eagles game against Toronto. Summaries of each game follow:

Game 1 vs. Schaumburg Kings -- The Eagles came out strong against the Kings, taking a quick 2-0 lead. Center Josh Moon finished off tic-tac-toe passing sequence from linemates Austin Busch and Will Hegwein to start the scoring. Later in the first, David Warta carried the puck the length of the ice, broke in on the left side and fired to beat the goalie, low to the glove side. From then on, the game became “the Brandon Kruse show,” with the Eagles’ netminder stopping every King shot. With less than 10 seconds remaining in the second perod, Kruse stopped a clean breakaway to preserve the two-goal lead. The third period featured more of the same, with Kruse and the defense determined to finish off the shutout. Josh Moon put the game out of reach with his second of the game, an empty netter, to make the final 3-0.

Game 2 vs. Michigan Coyotes -- The Coyotes proved to be the toughest opponent the Eagles have faced all year, as they totally dominated the game, racing to an 8-0 lead, early in the third period. The Eagles were held without a shot on goal until less than five minutes remained in the contest, but they did escape the shutout when Will Hegwein scored from in close with less than 2 minutes to play to make the final 8-1, in favor of Michigan.

Game 3 vs. Colorado -- The Eagles played their third game against another strong team from the Denver area. After the Eagles fell behind 2-0, Josh Moon picked up a Hegwein pass behind the defense and went in alone to cut the lead to 2-1. The Eagles threatened on several occasions, but could not get the equalizer. Colorado extended the lead to 3-1 early in the third, and the Eagles could get no closer.

With prelimary games concluded, the Eagles’ record stood at 1-2, good for fourth place in its division. This meant their semi-final game would be against the #1 team in the other division, the Toronto Aeros. The Aeros had steamrolled to three straight wins, including one over the Michigan Coyotes, and had allowed only two goals. Adding to their mystique, not only were they a Canadian team, but their physical size was awesome, with most of their players approaching six feet in height and weighing in at more than 170 pounds. Due to a 6-month difference in Bantam age cutoffs between US and Canadian Hockey, all but two of the Toronto players were already 15 years old.

Game 4 vs. Toronto -- No one in the arena (except maybe the Eagles players and coaches), gave Quad Cities the slightest chance to make the game competitive. But as the first period rolled on, it became apparent that although outsized, the Eagles were sticking to Coach Moon’s plan and making a contest of it. The game was still scoreless when Brian Moriarty was hurt. During the lengthy delay, Coach Moon called his players together and reminded them that if they didn’t already have enough incentive to win, they now did -- win this game for Brian! Shortly after play resumed, the Eagles got the first big break of the game when Josh Moon scored on a breakaway to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Early in the third, Toronto answered when a centering pass deflected off Trent Lidholm’s skate, just inside the post. The Aeros then took the lead 2-1 with about eight minutes to go, and it appeared the Eagles’ terrific effort might go in vain. But the Eagles refused to quit, and with less than two minutes left, Austin Busch scored during a goalmouth scramble to even the score at 2, to set the stage for the best-of-five tiebreaker shootout.

David Warta was the first shooter for QC but he was stopped. The first Toronto shooter beat Kruse as the Aeros went up 1-0. The Eagles roared back to take a 2-1 shootout lead on shots by Moon and Busch. Toronto’s third shooter tied it up again at 2. Kevin Dow and Will Hegwein were stopped, but Kruse stoned the fourth and fifth Toronto shooters to preserve the tie, setting up sudden death. David Warta made good on his second chance, giving the Eagles a 3-2 lead, putting all the pressure on the Toronto shooter. He moved in, deked right and fired left, and Kruse came up with the game-winning save. As the Eagles raced onto the ice to mob their goalie, all that was missing was Al Michael’s “Do you believe in miracles?!” call.

After the game, Coach Moon reflected on th enormity of the win, saying, “We actually beat a pretty good Canadian MIDGET team!” The huge upset qualified the Eagles for their divisional championship game against Oak Lawn on Sunday.

Game 5 vs. Oaklawn -- The championship game was decided late in the first period when Oak Lawn scored to take a 1-0 lead. Minutes earlier, Left Wing Will Hegwein had gone down with an ankle injury, and the Eagles, already shorthanded due to Moriarty’s injury, had to scramble to finish the game with just seven forwards. The Viking goalie had all the answers, as he made the first period goal stand up for the winning margin, as Oak Lawn captured the title.

With the exception of the injury to Brian Moriarty, the Wishbone Tournament was a very positive experience for the Eagles. The win against the Toronto team may well have been the most significant victory by any travel team in the brief history of the QCHA. amd the experience of playing top teams from all over North America can do nothing but help the development of this team.

The Eagles, now 10-6 overall, return to CIHL league play with two home games next Sunday at the QCSC.

INJURY UPDATE: The Ice Eagle web page has just been contacted by John Hegwein at 5:40 p.m. Monday, November 30, with the devastating news that Will Hegwein has suffered a broken ankle, sustained in the championship game against Oak Lawn. The injury, which we all thought was relatively minor, was diagnosed late Sunday night. Will is currently hospitalized at Genesis West, pending his release on Tuesday. He is expected to be out of action for at least 12 weeks.

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