Merrill?s DeBroux heats up to help Blizzard win big event

Merrill’s Ivan DeBroux recently helped his Northern Wis. Blizzard 2000 AAA hockey team score the title of the USA International Hockey Cup Open Tournament.
The 2000 Open Division attracted 12 teams from throughout the Midwest and Canada to the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., from June 16-19. The rink hosts 17 divisions of USA-IHC competition over three weekends.
The team out-scored their opponents by a combined 38-5 tally.
“They played as a team,” Ivan’s father, Ben, said. “Most of the teams have a couple of superstars. At one point we asked the kids, ‘Who has scored a goal?,’ and then we asked “Who has an assist?’ By the time we asked those two questions, nearly every kid had their hand up.”
“It was fun,” Ivan added. “I figured it would be one of the harder tournaments, but we actually did good.”
Oddly enough, the Blizzard defeated defending champion Team Milwaukee 4-0 for the first-place trophy after besting four other foes. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Blizzard broke it open with a pair of second-period goals, including a short-hander with 14:25 elapsed for a 3-0 lead.
“The championship game was a battle,” Ben said. “It took most of first period to get that first one, then you could just see them deflating. When we got that short-handed goal, that really messed their goalie up. They still battled pretty hard, but it wasn’t like the intensity of the first period.”
Not that the Blizzard could coast at that point.
“When you’re against teams that good, you don’t let off the gas,” Ben said. “They can come back fast.”
To reach the final, the Blizzard bumped off Loon Lake 4-3 just 1:00 in overtime on Saturday. Ivan scored the game’s first goal, and Wausau’s Brendan Hoover-the nephew of Merrill’s Jennifer Almli-assisted on the first two and scored the third. Hoover also scored the first and third goals in the final.
The Blizzard also made short work of Pike and the Minnesota Mavericks by 14-1 and 4-0 tallies on Friday and routed Miracle United 12-1 on Saturday. Ivan, a center, scored two goals and assisted thrice against United and gave a goal and 3 assists against Pike.
The team used a unique set-up of three sets of wingers with only two centers, since one of the their top players-Eagle River’s Max Zingler-was unable to attend the tourney.
“We actually didn’t think it would work all tournament, because the centers are getting skated so hard, especially when we got close to the championship,” Ben said. “A couple of times we let them sit an extra shift, and all the forwards can play any of the positions, too, so we can mix them up. We did steal a couple of forwards for defense a few times.”
Ivan finished as the third-leading scorer on his team with 5 goals and 6 assists, but it also ranked him third of 188 participants in the entire tourney. Hoover was second with 9 goals and 6 assists, notching 5 goals and 3 assists against Pike.
The team had achieved a string of third-place finishes in their five previous tournaments on the season, including the invite-only Chi-Town Shuffle held April 15-17 in Chicago that drew teams from across the country.
“We got third there, too, which was pretty remarkable, because the reason we got the invite was our coach wanted to build a super team with kids from the U.P.,” Ben said. “But we couldn’t get a commitment, so we said enough was enough and went with the kids from last year. We beat a team, the Dallas Stars, where every kid had to pay $20,000 just to play, before all the other expenses, including traveling.”

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