A Group of Old Stillwater High School Buddies Bring Home the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship
Stillwater's Legacy Exteriors crew took to the U.S. National Pond Hockey Tournament last weekend on Lake Nokomis and left Minneapolis the "Rink Rat" Division Champs.
A group of old Stillwater High School buddies took to the U.S. National Pond Hockey Tournament last weekend for their first time—and won the thing.
The crew—made up of Steve Meisterling, Case Arkell, Dan Sedlacek, Bobby Tuccitto, Chris Ryberg, Scott Nelson, Greg Grippentrog and Mike O'Connor—have been playing hockey together for more than 20 years.
They grew up strapping on their skates and taking it to each other at Lily Lake and Croixwood.
“When we get together it’s just a comedy show,” said Scott Nelson, who came into town from Salt Lake City for the tourney. “We’re constantly laughing and making fun of each other like we’re seniors in high school again.
“That’s what makes this such a good time. We all have obligations and families and then to get together and win this thing, it was fun.”
For the most part, the crew gets together annually to play boot hockey in the Ex-Ponies Invitational—and that’s where the idea to play in the Pond Hockey Tournament started, Tuccitto said. Several of the players continue to play hockey in men’s leagues, and this was a great way for the guys to get together.
But heading into the nation’s largest pond hockey tournament—with more than 30,000 spectators over the two-day tournament—the squad didn’t know what to expect.
“We figured we were either going to win a few games, or we were going to get embarrassed, drink beer and have fun,” Nelson said.
In addition to the choppy ice and bitter cold temperatures, the team’s first challenge was figuring out the rules.
During tournament play, each team has four skaters on the ice at a time; there’s no icing; and no off-sides penalties.
Luckily, the Legacy Exteriors first game was against the Lightning, a squad that hasn’t won a game in the tournament in three years.
The Legacy crew jumped out to a big lead—and utilizing the old dump-and-score technique— they went on to beat the Lightning 32-2.
But good sportsmanship nearly cost the Legacy crew a playoff berth.
After getting out to a big lead, the Legacy crew allowed the Lightning to score twice and implemented a self-imposed everyone-has-to-touch–the-puck rule before scoring.
“The other team asked us what we were doing,” Tuccitto said.
Because there are 78 teams in the division, a lot of teams have a 3-0 record after three games, he explained. So the top eight teams are determined by the tie-breakers, the first of which is goals allowed, and then goals scored.
“Those guys came right out and said we have to bury them if we want a chance to advance to the eight-team playoff,” Tuccitto said. “If they didn’t tell us that we wouldn’t have made the playoffs. They were nice enough to fill us in on the rules.”
After three games, the Legacy crew was seeded second overall, allowing only seven goals while scoring 63.
Then came the playoffs.
When the tournament was whittled down to eight teams, the competition got much more difficult, Nelson said.
During the first playoff game, the Legacy crew overcame a two-goal deficit with four minutes left to advance by winning 9-8 against the Real Men of Genius.
The next game, the Legacy crew got somewhat of a breather, beating the Pond Scum squad 10-2.
In the finals, the game went down to the wire.
Legacy Exteriors was down to the Golden Ophers at halftime.
“We went in at halftime and said this is it,” Nelson said. “We regrouped, and with a couple of minutes left in the game, took the lead.”
The Legacy crew won the championship 7-5, and in the process, gained some bragging rights that more than likely won’t stop for quite some time.
When it was all said and done, the guys hit up the Anchor Bar for some pizza and cocktails, Nelson said.
“We were just spent. It takes a lot out of you to play five games in one day, but overall the experience was unbelievable,” he said. “It was great to get back with the guys. We’ve been playing out at Lily Lake and Croixwood since we were kids … to win this, it was just a blast.”
Just seeing how the event is run—with all the teams, the heated tent and the constant flow of traffic—was impressive, Tuccitto said.
“This event was something else,” he said. “And for us to win the tournament … That was awesome. It was an experience I can’t quite explain.”