Eight teams from across B.C. skate into the Cominco Arena this weekend for the Bantam Tier 2 Provincial Championships and the Rossland-Trail double-A team is ready and eager to hit the ice.
The local team finished their season almost a month ago, but have been practicing hard, and playing in tournaments and exhibition games to keep them fine tuned, including a four-game-in-two-days pressure cooker at a tournament in Castlegar earlier this month.
“We played four games in two days, and we played really well,” said Bantam coach Craig Clare. “We played with high intensity and we were fine. If we play as well as we can, I think we’ll have a good chance (in the provincials).”
The Bantam team completed its season in the Okanagan Mainland Amateur Hockey Association, finishing third in the league with eight wins, three losses and three ties, a mere five-points behind first-place Westside who also qualified for the provincial tournament.
The eight teams are split in two divisions and play a round robin before a two-game playoff. The R-T Bantams will play in Division A against Cranbrook, Mission and Williams Lake, while Div. B consists of Burnaby Winter Club, Campbell River, Fort St. John and Westside.
While Clare is not familiar with many of this year’s teams, he has played against many of them in the past and expects some heated competition, in what is his third trip to the Bantam B.C.’s.
The R-T Bantam AA’s look to get off to a good start with two games on Sunday. The first match up is at 1:30 p.m. against Williams Lake, while their second game goes at 8 p.m. against Mission, immediately following the opening ceremonies at 7:30 p.m.
Mission knocked Rossland-Trail out of last year’s tournament, so the team would like to return the favour.
“Every game you play is intense. I mean it’s such a short tournament where you kind of have to take it one game at a time. They’re pretty much must wins, if you lose one, you can’t lose the next or you’re done.”
In order to advance, a team must win two of its divisional games, and then go undefeated through the semifinal and final. There is no margin for error.
“We can seal our fate on Sunday or we can make some trouble. We have to have a good start.”
Hosting the tournament should be a benefit for the team, not having to travel or stay in hotels, and having friends and family at the games in a hockey town like Trail will help, says Clare.
“It’s an opportunity . . . but you have to take advantage of it by playing well and that’s the only way. If we play well and we play to our skill set on home ice, then for sure it gives us an advantage.”