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French Trucking Bantams take second
By Dan Hardenbrook

The French Trucking Bantams traveled to Kalamazoo last weekend for the MAHA 14U B State Tournament. The team intended to defend their title and bring a second straight state championship back above the bridge.

The group of players, all age 14 and under, from Newberry, Munising, and Manistique took on tough competition all season long, preparing for this test against the best. After an amazing run, the “Truckers” made it to the championship game before falling to 0-1 to Cadillac in another epic clash.

Cadillac was looking for revenge against French Trucking, who defeated them to win the state championship last year. That game went into triple overtime and ended on a heart-stopping goal by Zach Burton.

This year, French Trucking and Cadillac met twice and neither could defeat the other. Their first match-up ended in a 0-0 tie, and their second ended at 1-1. They were as evenly matched as they could possibly be.

They delivered on the hype this weekend. It only took one Cadillac goal, which came 3:30 into the game, to make all the difference. French Trucking left their hearts on the ice, but were unable to score.

French Trucking’s tournament experience began with a difficult match-up. The Big Rapids Ice Dogs, who were widely considered the third-best team in the tournament, gave French Trucking a tough test. With a 2-0 lead, back-to-back penalties allowed the Ice Dogs to get back in it. They would tie the game up and it stayed that way until late, when Cameron Skeans scored the go ahead goal. An empty netter came at the end, and French Trucking took a 4-1 win.

Saturday was all about setting themselves up for a possible number 1 seed in crossovers. French Trucking took it to both of their opponents, beating the host HAWK Purple team 8-1 in impressive fashion. Alex Noble started with a shutout, and Irvin Ludy got in the game to take things the rest of the way. Matthew Rahilly and Blake Walther starred on offense. The Troy Bears were next, and they too got ran over by the Truckers. With an 8-1 win there, and strong performances from Ludy and brothers Carson and Austin Hinkson, the Truckers moved on to Sunday’s semifinals.

The final four featured Big Rapids vs Cadillac and French Trucking taking on Saginaw. French Trucking made it look easy, shutting out Saginaw 7-0 to advance to the championship game. But Cadillac also won, easily beating Big Rapids to advance to that same championship match.

It was a nail-biter. Both teams played a high-energy game, using up all the space on the ice to spar like warriors. It was nearly impossible to score.

French Trucking team carried themselves with class all weekend and never quit. Though they came in second, they certainly have plenty to be proud of. They dominated this season and used every ounce of effort on the ice.

In a message to his team and family after the game, Coach Ben Rahilly stated, “I reminisce about the season that just finished up and it’s not the way we planned, but still extremely successful. I can’t help but think about each and everyone of the wonderful young men I had the pleasure of coaching, and the great parents they belong to, that were once enemies and are now friends! This group of people will hold a special spot in my heart and I truly hope to see them all often in the future and see these young men grow into the wonderful adults they will become.”

Rahilly thanked fellow coaches and the communities for their support. “Thank you Munising and Manistique hockey associations and communities for the support of these young men all season long and making this state tournament the special event it is! TAYHA and Newberry, I couldn’t be any prouder to be from and represent you. There is not another community or association I would want to raise my children in! See you all again in the rink!”