WOODRIDGE, IL – NOVEMBER 28, 1999
The Quad City Ice Eagle Bantam travel team won the Bracket B championship of the 1999 Wishbone Classic Sunday afternoon with a convincing 5-1 victory over St. Judes at the Seven Bridges Rink. The Eagles were led by Captain Josh Moon, who scored the first four Eagle goals in the championship game, including three shorthanded tallies. The win vindicated the Eagles, who last year made it to the championship game, but lost a 1-0 heartbreaker. Stories about each game of the tournament follow.
Ironically, the Eagles’ first game was against St. Jude, the team they would ultimately meet for the title later in the weekend. The Eagles were playing without Will Hegwein and Jack Hasselbusch, both out with injuries, but they were strengthened by the return of David Warta for this tournament. The Eagles started off well when Austin Busch scored the first goal of the game at the :36 mark on a perfect pass from Josh Moon. Later in the first, Warta scored, assisted by Ryne Takacs to increase the lead to 2-0. There was a feeling that one more goal would give the Eagles a comfortable lead, but St. Jude picked up their play, and both teams battled through a scoreless second period. With solid goaltending from Brandon Kruse, the Eagles were able to put the game away with 1:20 left in the game when Warta scored his second of the game, assisted by Chad Dotterer and Brandon Balsar to make the final 3-0. The Eagles outshot St. Jude 29-17.
The Eagles’ second game of the tournament was scheduled for Friday evening against the Sabres of Naperville. In this game, the Eagles took command from the very beginning with Dave Warta scoring on a slap shot from the high slot just 2:13 into the game, assisted by Ryne Takacs. Forty seconds later, Defenseman Robbie Jacobsen unloaded a big blast from the right point that upped the lead to 2-0. Mark Muenstermann picked up the assist. Then three minutes later, with the Eagles shorthanded, Josh Moon scored his first of the game. Midway through the second period, with the Eagles again down a man, Moon took a pass from Warta and scored another shorthanded goal to increase the lead to 4-0. Austin Busch closed out the scoring for the Eagles with their third shorthanded goal of the game, assisted by Moon, with just over two minutes to play to make the final score 5-0. Brandon Morgan recorded another shutout, as the Eagles did not allow a goal in either of their first two games.
The Eagles’ opponent for their third tournament game was Team Illinois ’87, probably the best PeeWee team in the Midwest. Although very small, Team Illinois featured some outstanding skaters that would make them a tough foe for anyone in the Bantam bracket. It appeared the Eagles’ size and experience might be too much for TI during the first few minutes, when the younger team was unable to get out of their own defensive zone. But they quickly regained their poise, and the period settled into a hard-fought defensive struggle. The Team Illinois speed was apparent when they scored the first goal of the game on a 3-on-1 breakaway at the 10:33 mark of the first period. David Warta got that back when he scored early in the second period from close in, assisted by Balsar to tie the game at one. The key to the game came during a QC penalty, when TI’s Gannon scored a power play goal at 6:10, and then Luke was able to beat Goalie Brandon Kruse just :38 seconds later to increase the lead to 3-1. Down by two goals, the Eagles tried valiantly to come back, but repeatedly found themselves frustrated by the defensive efforts of Team Illinois. With just over two minutes to go, Dave Warta scored from the slot on a rising shot over the goalie’s glove to bring the Eagles to within one, with John Carr getting the assist. The Eagles put a lot of pressure on in the game’s final minute, but could not get the equalizer as the Team Illinois held on for an exciting 3-2 victory.
GAME 4 -- SEMIFINAL
With a 2-1 record, the Eagles were seeded as the #2 team entering the semi-final crossover stage, which meant they had to play the Flames, also 2-1, seeded third in their bracket. Needing a victory to advance to the bracket championship, the Eagle got off to a fast start when Austin Busch buried a perfect centering pass from Moon at 4:57 of the first period, with John Carr getting the other assist. The Flames, although trailing, were carrying the play, and only the outstanding goaltending of Brandon Morgan kept the Flames from tying the game. Early in the second, Busch scored his second of the game on a one-timer from just to the left of the Flames net, with Takacs and Balsar registering the assists. After Busch’s goal, the Eagles picked up three successive minor penalties, leaving the team shorthanded by two men for a critical minute, but the outstanding defensive work of Moon, Corcoran and Takacs, along with more great saves from Morgan, maintained the lead. Finally with the Eagles still down one man, the Flames scored on a tip-in from an impossible angle to narrow the lead to 2-1. The third period was a real nail-biter, with the Flames continuing to control play and the Eagles stubbornly refusing to give up the lead. Midway through the final period, Jason Corcoran was knocked out of the game after a hard check into the Flames bench, but David Warta shifted back to defense, and the Eagles had just enough to deny the Flames the tying goal, despite being outshot and outplayed for much of the second half of the game. The win allowed the Eagles to advance, for the second year in a row, to the championship game of their bracket.
GAME 5 -- CHANPIONSHIP GAME
The championship game matched the Eagles with St. Jude, the team the Eagles had defeated in the first game of the tournament. With Brandon Kruse in net for the Eagles, the game started with St. Jude obviously intent on turning the tables. Midway through the first period, the Eagles fell behind 1-0, after St. Jude scored during a goal-mouth scramble, after Kruse had made a couple of tough saves. Fortunately, the Eagles were able to tie the game late in the first when Josh Moon scored the first of what would be a four-goal game. The second period proved to be one of the most memorable in recent Eagle history when Josh Moon scored three more goals, all of them shorthanded, to give the Eagles a 4-1 lead. On the first, Moon broke away and came in on left wing and beat the goalie with a high riser to the far corner of the net. Minutes later, Moon scored his second shorty from the slot, assisted by Busch. And then came the real backbreaker for St. Jude. Moon again broke in on the left wing, fired a slap shot that caromed of the goalie’s stick and appeared to deflect into the net off Moon’s skate as he crossed in front of the net.
With the defense and Kruse playing well, the third period offered little chance for a St. Jude comeback. Ryne Takacs finished the scoring late in the third, as the Eagles cruised to a 5-1 victory and the Wishbone ’99 championship.