Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ottawa Internationals Soccer Scoop: Icebreaker tournament & treasured traditions return

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By Ottawa Sports Pages, for Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club

The host Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club celebrated two titles and four podiums in total on the second weekend of its popular annual Icebreaker tournament.

The storied early-season tournament – first held in 1995, but interrupted from 2020-2022 by COVID – resurged to 196 participating teams this year, taking over numerous pitches in central Ottawa on the weekends of May 25-26 and June 1-2.

“I’m happy to see to see there’s been growth compared to last year and that the tournament is re-establishing itself,” signals long-time lead organizer George Bennett. “It might take awhile before we get back to the 300 or so teams we used to consistently have, but it’s encouraging to see a lot of teams now coming back from Toronto and Montreal to participate every year.”

Several celebrated tournament traditions continued, including the awarding of medals with a different polar animal each year, and divisions named Ice Pile (for the strongest level) and Snow Bank. Plus, the huge community spirit that fuels the event shone once again.

“We have so many parents of players and volunteers helping to organize the tournament,” underlines Bennett. “We are a not-for-profit community club and we aren’t trying to make a bunch of money running the tournament, so our volunteers are really essential to pull it off and we’re really thankful to have their support.”

The Internationals froze out their competition to win the Icebreaker’s U14 boys’ Ice Pile and U15 boys’ Snow Bank divisions.

In the U14 event, the Internationals Black team avenged its lone defeat from the round robin stage with a 2-0 championship game victory over Laval. OISC also topped Ottawa TFC, Ottawa South United, Lakeshore and Montréal-Nord earlier on.

In U15, the Internationals Red squad heated up as they went along. They went 3-2 in the round robin and then won each of their playoff games by a 1-0 margin over Nepean, Internationals Black and Ottawa City.

The Internationals were also runners-up in the U15/16 boys’ Ice Pile event behind Ottawa Futsal, and the club’s U14C1 Red team took the bronze medal position in U14 boys’ Snow Bank.

But more than championships, the tournament provides the chance to “break the ice”, just as the Icebreaker name suggests, as teams settle in to their young seasons.

It is structured to give every team as much of an opportunity as possible to prepare for the season ahead. Mini-games that are less than a regular half offer a variety of different opponents, and all participants go on to the playoff round regardless of round-robin record. Every team plays at least 200 minutes throughout the weekend, which helps develop match fitness. And no ties are allowed, which provides more opportunities to practice penalty kicks.

Internationals coach Peter Willis says the tournament allowed him to experiment with different lineups and quicker substitutions, which was a beneficial bonus early in the season that wouldn’t happen so swiftly in league play.

“It gave us a lot of information on where we wanted to go with our team and how we wanted to play together,” highlights Willis, whose U14C1 White team fell to a fellow Internationals side in the playoff round, before OISC’s U14C1 Red team went on to earn bronze behind champion Petawawa and runner-up Gloucester.

“It gave me lots of ideas,” he adds. “It started off shaky when we were implementing them, but by the end it was amazing.”

The other finals in the boys’ event on June 1-2 were:

U17/18 Ice Pile
Nepean Hotspurs 2, West Carleton 1.

U13 Ice Pile
Ottawa TFC 3, St-Lazare/Hudson 1.

U13 Snow Bank Yukon
Ottawa South United 2, St-Laurent 1.

U13 Snow Bank Nunavut
Seaway Valley 1, Ottawa South United 0.

The girls’ finals on the May 25-26 weekend included:

U17/18
Kingston United 3, Seaway Valley 2.

U16
OSU White 1, Seaway Red 0.

U15
Lakeshore 2, Northumberland United 1.

U14
Gloucester Hornets 1, MRO Griffons 0.

U13
Kingston Jr. Gaels 1, Seaway Valley Blazers 0.

Single-day festivals were also held for teams in the U9 to U12 divisions.

Learn more about the Ottawa Icebreaker Soccer Tournament at OttawaIcebreaker.com and the Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club at OttawaSoccer.com.

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