Cochrane teens succeed in sledge hockey

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Calgary Venom player Eric Carvelli is ready to move up in the sledge hockey world – and he’s taking a gold medal with him after the last great win of his junior journey.

“I’m nervous,” said the Grade 10 student at St. Timothy’s High School. “I think I have some improvements left.”

Carvelli and fellow Cochrane teammate Shane Mott, who attends Bow Valley High School, both battled for best at the Western Canada Sledge Hockey Tournament at WinSport late last month.

The Venom took on the Kindersley Klippers for the Matt Cook Memorial Cup at the 13th annual sports series, and Carvelli said the squad had taken on the B.C. team earlier in the weekend – and it didn’t go their way.

“We played the same team on Friday night and we had lost to them,” Carvelli recalled, adding the teams went into overtime tied at 2-2 and then were shut down in the extra minutes.

“The rest of the weekend we worked on things that we could do better,” he said. “And then in the gold medal game … it was a close game.”

The way it played out felt a bit like déjŕ vu for Carvelli and his team, with the Klippers and the Venom again stuck at 2-2 at the end of three periods.

“I was on the bench just holding my breath to get a shot off,” said Carvelli of the three-on-three overtime. “(I was thinking) don’t let it happen again.”

With no winner decided in extra time, the gold medal match moved to a shootout.

“I think they were all nervous,” remembered Mott’s father, Doug. “We pulled everybody off the bench so everybody could see it.”

With the Venom all lined up to watch, Carvelli said the team “put out our two best guys,” and they pushed through the net for a 2-1 triumph – earning their team an energetic celebration on the ice.

“It was a tight game, and win or lose – they always have a blast,” said Shane’s father, Doug. “They’re just a special group of kids, all of them.”

The Memorial Cup is a feather in Carvelli and Mott’s caps, as they finish their time with the Calgary Sledge Hockey Association’s junior division.

Now 15 with a birthday coming up, Carvelli moves into Intermediate Calgary Stingers club, which encompasses players ages 16 to adult.

The teen said he wants to work on his stick handling and balance skills through the summer so he can gain more strength and confidence moving into the intermediate group.

MacKenzie said she is thrilled her son plans on continuing with the sport.

“As his parents, we really credit this with really helping along with (his) confidence,” she said. “It’s been fantastic.”

Carvelli, whose cerebral palsy makes it challenging to play traditional hockey, said he couldn’t imagine his life without the sport he has loved since he was a boy.

“My stepbrother always played hockey growing up. I’d go to his games and I wanted to play hockey, too. It got super frustrating,” Carvelli said, adding after he experienced sledge for the first time, he knew it was where he belonged.

“It was that feeling of, ‘I’m playing hockey – something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.’”

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Cochrane Eagle