CHS, NCMS team up to run knee hockey tourney

CHS, NCMS team up to run knee hockey tourney

The middle school quarterfinal-round game between High Class Benders and the Flachintas drew a large crowd last Friday night at Cumberland High's Wellness Center. The players in the game were, from left, Manny Cabral, Jacob Eberson, Sam Meers, Shane Johnson, Shea Bessette, and Jason Diedrich. Among those watching the game was the head coach of the High Class Benders, top left corner, Tyler Kolek. (Valley Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)

CUMBERLAND - The wrestling mats inside Cumberland High's Wellness Center that were put away for the offseason were rolled out for one final time last Friday night.

But they weren't being used by the Clippers' wrestling team, or in fact, any grapplers.

Instead, they were used as "rinks" for the 3-on-3 "Friday Night Lights" Knee Hockey Tournament.

The popular 2nd-annual event, which is organized by North Cumberland Middle School physical education teacher and cross country coach Kerrie Carpenter and her husband, Scott Carpenter, Cumberland High's Dean of Students and Culture and boys' lacrosse coach, packed the Wellness Center with students from both schools, as well as parents and friends.

The event raised more than $1,000, and the proceeds were split between Team NCMS, a leadership club at the school that Kerrie Carpenter compared to "a 2015 version of student council," and the Clippers' lacrosse team.

"Knee hockey is very popular with the kids today," said Kerrie Carpenter. "My kids have been playing it for a few years now. When we go away for hockey tournaments, they will bring their little nets and play it in the hotel hallways or conference rooms."

Carpenter created the knee hockey tournament at NCMS last winter as "something for the student body to participate it that had a fresh look. We brainstormed what to do and we wanted it to be unique, so we came up with this. We decided that if there's one thing that every group, no matter how old you are, rallies around, it's competition, regardless if its football, March Madness, or another sport.

"It was a huge success and it motivated us to do it again," continued Carpenter. "Scott and I then talked about doing a joint middle school/high school (event) and seeing if it would work."

And work it certainly did, and the number one reason behind the tournament's success?

"It was all led by kids," said Carpenter. "I had Scott and one or two other point people, such as John Brodeur, my physical education colleague, but other than that, the kids did everything.

"Scott's lacrosse team did all the bullwork with the wrestling mats and arranging the scorekeepers and referees, and my guys did the planning and coordinating of the brackets. The admission and the voting tables had two kids working them, with a parent overseeing them. My son worked the stick rental table, and he's only in 5th grade.

"It was 100 percent student-run, which is so awesome in itself. In Team NCMS, we learn about leadership and how to delegate and identify what needs to be done. That's what makes that event unique, and I don't know if the adults (at the tournament) knew that."

The tournament attracted 60 three-player squads, 40 from NCMS, who played a single-elimination format in the "16-rink arena" that started with 10-minute games, but eventually dropped down to six minutes for the high school and middle school championship games.

Among the rules that each player had to follow were keeping their sticks below waist level, staying on their knees at all times, and giving a goalie space to clear the ball after a possession.

One-minute minor penalties and two-minute majors were also given out to those who broke the rules.

Both championship games were decided by 2-0 scores, with the Mighty Ducks team of Matt Keelar, Zachary Lenahan, and Tom McGraw defeating the PPW Goons in the high school finals, and the Good Squad of Aidan Clarey, Nick Curran, and Alex Pratt topping the American Snipers for the middle school title.

Two other middle school teams also won awards. The C-Town Squad earned top honors in the Best Dressed category, while the Tweedles received the Best Team Name honor.

The Mighty Ducks' Matt Keelar, left, lets out a victory yell as he raises the high school championship cup next to teammates Zachary Lenahan, center, and Tom McGraw.
The Goon Squad, from left, Nick Curran, Alex Pratt, and Aidan Clarey, pose for a picture with their middle school championship cup.
C-Town Squad goalie Riley Dion, bottom left, has plenty of fan support from the spectators behind her. The C-Town Squad won the tournament's Best Dressed Team award.
Abby Drezek, center, breaks a smile as she gets ready to celebrate a goal with teammates Jaylen Thomas, left, and Julianne Ross, second from left. On the ground is opposing player Sydney Provencal.
Elise Curren, shown updating the tournament brackets, was one of the dozen students who volunteered their services at last Friday night's 3-on-3 Knee Hockey Tournament at Cumberland High School's Wellness Center.