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Trail Smoke Eater helps Team BC to gold at NAHC

Smoke Eaters forward Spencer McLean led Team BC to gold at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship.
Trail Smoke Eater forward Spencer McLean helped Team BC win the 2016 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Mississauga

The third time was indeed a charm for Trail Smoke Eater forward Spencer McLean as he led Team BC to the national title at the 2016 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) last month in Mississauga, Ont.

It was McLean’s third attempt at the Midget-age NAHC, after finishing second in 2014 and third in 2015, Team BC defeated Team North in the gold medal game 3-0 to win the 2016 championship.

“It’s awesome,” said McLean. “It’s a good way to go out. Coming up short my first year, we came second, and the next year we came third, so it’s a good way to end it, a really good way.”

Team BC advanced from the round robin ranked first overall after going undefeated with convincing wins over Team Atlantic, Team Alberta, and Team North. In the quarterfinals, Team BC beat Saskatchewan 6-2, earning a spot in the semi-finals against Team Manitoba. The semi-final thriller ended when Duncan’s Keenan Eddy scored two minutes into overtime giving BC a 3-2 victory.

“We won in overtime against a team that was probably the second best team,” said McLean. “It just ended up that we had to play them in the semis, but it was fantastic, it was awesome. It’s really different hockey, it’s really rough, but it’s really skilled. You wouldn’t believe it was so high-calibre hockey but it really is.”

The championship game featured a Team North rematch with the same result, as Team BC dominated the game both offensively and defensively resulting in an impressive 3-0 win.

“We started off kind of slow, but we got it together in the second period and started scoring a couple goals,” said McLean. “Our goalie was pretty stellar.”

The 18-year-old forward led Team BC in scoring with five goals and four assists and follows in the footsteps of Trail native Riley Brandt who helped Team BC win its first gold medal at the NAHC in 2013.

“We are so proud to bring the gold medal back home to BC,” head coach Joe Quewezance said in a release. “The hard work, dedication, and the team dynamics were all incredible. Each year we are impressed by the number of young talented Aboriginal hockey players in BC. Once the team was selected, we were confident our team was going to be a strong contender.”

McLean is of Metis descent and says the opening ceremony, complete with a variety of indigenous ceremonial dance and music, was a unique and interesting highlight of the tournament.

“They did a lot of cultural stuff at the opening ceremonies, stuff I’d never done before, and it was really kind of cool,” said McLean. ”All my three years were actually probably the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

McLean, along with his teammates, were also treated to a Toronto Blue Jays game, another highlight of the NAHC.

The female Team BC just missed a medal as they lost 2-1 in overtime to Team Manitoba to place fourth.

Team BC–NAHC is a program of the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council (Partners Council) and sanctioned by BC Hockey. The program provides an opportunity for the Province’s top Midget age male and female Aboriginal hockey players to compete at the National Championships, which celebrates sport excellence as well as cultural unity and pride.

Jim Bailey

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