The Ice Cats hockey program in Brandon Valley continues to grow, and the results are beginning to pile up.
Recently the Pee Wee (12-and-under) and Bantam (14-and-under) teams competed in the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association state tournaments, a first for both teams. It was the third year to even field teams on the state level.for the Pee Wee team and the first for the Bantam.
And with the growth in numbers of kids competing, the trend of competing on the state level looks to surely continue in the coming years.
“Every year there’s just more and more new participants at the younger ages,” said Brandon Valley Pee Wee coach Kevin Peters. “There’s always going to be new registrations at the younger levels, and those number will just continue to grow and move up each year.”
The Pee Wee team lost its opener in the state tournament to Aberdeen on Feb. 15, but battled back and won its next two to claim the consolation title, which included a 4-2 win over Sioux Falls. Eric Roberts led the team in scoring with six goals in the tournament.
The consolation title is a solid end to a surging program that won its final five regular season games to finish the season at 7-5-0-2. Including the state tournament, the Pee Wees won seven of their last eight games.
After competing in the Pee Wee state tournament, most of the team and their families made it to the Sioux Falls Iceplex a week later to support the Bantam team, who finished third in the state tournament. The third-place finish is the highest for any team in the Brandon Valley Hockey Association.
The Bantam Ice Cats got a 3-0 opening-game win over Brookings, scoring twice in the final minute. Joe Weber faced 14 shots-on-goal to earn the shutout victory. The Ice Cats lost 6-0 to Sioux Falls in its next game before rebounding in the final round with a 5-0 win over Aberdeen to secure third place.
In the regular season, the Bantam team had a 7-8 record behind Isaac Johnson’s team-high 21 points, the second-highest in the state. Andre Carbonneau finished with 16 points, which ranked fourth in the state.
The strong showing at the state level wasn’t lost on the Brandon Valley crowd. Sarah Rasmussen is the association’s director of marketing. She also owns Grace and Sass Studios in Brandon, a home decor business she runs out of her home, where she makes personalized merchandise.
For the state tournaments, she made “Goal Getter” rags, an homage to the Homer Hanky made famous by the Minnesota Twins’ playoff runs in the late 1980s.
“I’ve kept super busy and I thought I could stock up a bit, but the hockey moms went nuts,” Rasmussen said. “They wanted all sorts of things.”
Bantam coach Chris Weber agrees when it comes to fan support. Weber has been coaching for nine years, but says the state tournament with the Ice Cats was different.
“It was awesome. I haven’t coached a team that’s ever had that much support,” Weber said. “There was a lot of friends and people from the community of Brandon out there cheering us on.”
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