The Greater Trail minor hockey Bantam Tier 2 Smoke Eaters struggled out of the gate, but came on strong when it counted to win the GTMHA Bantam Rep Tournament on Sunday at the Cominco Arena.
After falling to the West Kelowna Bantam Warriors 7-3 in the opening match of the round robin, the Trail Bantam’s, coached by Darrel and Mike Boisvert, would exact revenge in the final game of the tournament, downing their Okanagan Mainline rival 5-3 to capture the tournament title.
“In the first game we didn’t compete and they (West Kelowna) had a very good game, and you can’t do that against them and win,” said coach Mike Boisvert. “This game our boys stepped up, they showed a little more heart, a little more battle and that was the difference for us.”
Trail rebounded Saturday morning with a big 7-1 win over Spokane Bantam Chiefs, then defeated Kelowna Bantam Tier 2 Rockets 7-3 in the afternoon game.
They faced the undefeated Campbell River Tyees in the semifinal on Sunday, and in an exciting back-and-forth match up the Trail Bantam’s scored an empty net goal in the final seconds to win 8-6.
The victory put them into the final versus the undefeated West Kelowna Warriors less than two hours later.
“As you could see in the final game, the kids by the end of it we were losing our legs a little, but that’s when you have to find that extra gear you got, and that little bit of heart you have and make sure you can pull through right to the end,” said Boisvert.
Jaxon Waterstreet netted what proved to be the winning goal at 17:58 of the third period to put Trail up 4-2. Waterstreet went hard to the net and was able to corral a shot from Conner Seib and beat Warrior goalie Tanner Marshall with the backhand.
“Seiber got the shot, and I just got the rebound, and I went five hole,” said Waterstreet, who said it felt “pretty good” scoring the winner.
As for what the speedy forward thought was the difference in the loss to WK in the first game and the final, Waterstreet was succinct.
“We just went harder and played more physical.”
The Warriors opened the scoring at 13:25 of the first period, when Jonah Tassone beat Trail goalie Josh Ballarin. However, Marty Ingram evened the match two minutes later converting on a set up from Brad Ross and Seib.
The Bantam Smokies would take the lead on a goal from Jon Ballarin at 17:43 of the middle frame on another Seib setup, and Owen Titus made it 3-1 taking a pass from Ross and breaking in and beating Marshall with a nifty fake and quick shot under the glove with 4:31 to play in the second. West Kelowna cut the lead to one, 34 seconds into the third on a Joel Haymour goal, but Waterstreet would restore the two-goal lead.
The Warriors refused to go away, however, netting a power play with 2:09 remaining in regulation.
West Kelowna then pulled its goalie, but the GTMHA Bantams were determined to win. The Trail defence limited Warrior chances in the final two minutes, and when West K did get a shot, Josh Ballarin came up big. Ethan Jang would score an empty netter with 16 seconds remaining to ice it.
“The kids played with a lot of heart,” added Boisvert. “We faced a very good Campbell River team this morning and all the kids stepped up and played above their potential right now and just worked super hard.”