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First ice hockey tourney big hit

If you are in Ocean City this week, you may notice a couple of changes as you drive down Coastal Highway. The speed limit, normally 40 mph through North Ocean City, has been reduced to 30 mph, and Downtown, the speed limit has also been reduced. This is due to the expected, unauthorized H2Oi Pop-Up Rally.  It is reasonable to expect heavier than usual traffic, noise and strict enforcement of vehicle laws during the week and weekend.

(March 7, 2014) Last weekend, 175 hockey players, ranging in age from 5 to 8 years old, participated in the inaugural Mite Beach Bash tournament on the ice rink at the Carousel Resort Hotel and Condominiums on 118th Street.

A total of 16 teams from Maryland and Virginia competed in the tournament. Games were 4 vs. 4 on the ice and a goalie. Each squad played four games of two 20-minute halves.

Seven games took place Friday evening, 17 were played on Saturday and eight championship matches were held Sunday. All of the players, a majority of whom were boys, but there were a few young girls playing, received a goodie bag that included Fisher’s Popcorn, a pass to Old Pro Golf and snacks. Athletes were also presented with a medal at the conclusion of the tournament.

Tom LaTona, co-organizer of the Mite Beach Bash with Brian Antkowiak, was familiar with the Carousel’s ice rink and when USA Hockey changed field size for the 8 and younger division a few years ago from playing on full-sized ice to a cross-ice style format, he thought the venue would be a perfect fit for a youth tournament.

“[USA Hockey] wanted to see more stick handling and skill development. They wanted them to handle the puck more,” said LaTona, who has been a referee for 22 years, officiating youth to senior (ages 70-plus) athletes.

LaTona and Antkowiak began planning the tournament, sanctioned by USA Hockey, in October.

“Having this dream become a reality is one of the most rewarding things you could ask for…These kids are making history. This is the first Mite tournament in this hotel,” LaTona said. “Everything we’ve been working on came together…It’s all about these kids having fun and making memories they will never forget.”

LaTona said feedback from players and parents was “wonderful.”  About 95 percent of tournament participants stayed in the hotel.

“They all want to come back next year,” he said. “It was a fabulous tournament. I couldn’t have asked for more for how well it went.”

Teams participating in the tournament were: Montgomery Blue Devils (Montgomery County), Easton Ice Hawks, Piedmont Predators (Haymarket, Va.), Navy Rams out of Annapolis, Peninsula Jr. Admirals and Hampton Whalers both out of the Virginia Beach area, Howard Huskies (Howard County) Bowie Bruins, Prince William Panthers (Dale City, Va.), Hagerstown Bulldogs, Frederick Victory Vipers and the Wells Warriors out of College Park.

Two hockey sticks and a puck signed by Washington Capitals’ players were raffled off during the weekend.

A total of $629 was raised for the Fisher House Foundation, which has a network of homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment, according to its Web site, www.fisherhouse.org.

LaTona, who lives in Ellicott City, said he would like to host several tournaments next fall and winter at the Carousel.


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