The Mission Stars captured the gold medal at the U13 Tier-3 BC Hockey Championship, but it was an inspiring bronze-medal performance by Greater Trail Jr. Smokies that won the hearts of local residents and visitors.
After falling to the South Okanagan 3-0 in the semifinal on Wednesday night, Trail bounced back and defeated the Sunshine Coast Blues 3-2 in a thrilling bronze-medal match Thursday morning.
“We had everybody going today,” said Jr. Smokies coach Brian Youngson. “We played everybody, and it was nice to finish the season off with not only a win, but a win where we had everybody contributing.”
The Jr. Smokies needed scoring coming into the game, after being shut out 4-0 by the Blues in the final game of the round robin, followed by the shutout loss in the semifinal.
The Blues took a 1-0 lead at 3:53 of the first period, but Trail battled back in the second with goals from Gage Kiselback, Mason O’Handley and Ethan Caputo to take a 3-1 lead.
The Blues made it interesting in the third, with Landon Kelly cutting the lead to one with 12:18 left. The Jr. Smokies, however, played solid defensively and shut down a vaunted Sunshine Coast attack.
The Blues went undefeated in Pool B of the round robin before falling to second-seed Mission 7-3 in the semifinal crossover match up on Wednesday night, while second-seed Trail played undefeated South Okanagan from Pool A.
“I think the difference yesterday (vs S. Okanagan) was the fact that we played the extra game on our side,” said Youngson. “We were in our sixth game and they were only in their fifth over the same period. I think it definitely weighed on our legs especially in some of the guys that had played more minutes.
“Today with both teams being on their seventh game, I think we saw what we had left and what they had left, and I was really proud that everybody was able to contribute and have a hand it that win.”
In the gold medal match, Mission was looking to exact revenge on a previous 6-2 loss to the South Okanagan in the round robin.
Mission took a 2-0 lead in the first, but South Okanagan battled back to tie it on goals from Joel Parker and Seth Crowley.
Tanner Chahal put the Stars up 3-2 midway through the second period, but SOK’s Joel Parker tied the game at three, 61 seconds into the final frame.
It was all Mission after that. Maxxen Trites tallied his 12th of the tournament and the game winner at 16:22, firing in a rebound for a 4-3 lead.
Mission’s David Varcoe, Chahal, and Clark Galos completed the scoring and the Stars celebrated their gold medal triumph.
Trail’s success was somewhat unexpected at the provincial tournament following an unremarkable 5-6-2 season playing in the OMAHA league.
“I don’t think anyone would have expected it,” said Youngson. “We came in wanting be competitive and have a good time. But the kids were so focused over the six days and I couldn’t be happier.”
The Trail coach praised the volunteers and parents who organized and worked from early morning to late at night at the six day event, which saw 58 games played, incredible fan support, and approximately a ton of french fries sold at the Spud Shack.
“It was one of the smoothest events I’ve ever been apart of,” said Youngson. “I don’t think we had any mayor issues. The mothers were on top of it from the get-go. I’m grateful to have gone through this with such a great group of parents.”
Along with Youngson and the Jr. Smokies, Greater Trail minor hockey president Trent McNabb was a constant presence at the tournament and wanted to acknowledge the hard work of the volunteers.
“GTMHA would like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the organizing committee,” said McNabb. “Led by Kim Robinson, the U13 Tier 3 Provincials were extremely well organized.
“In addition to Kim, we would like to thank the tireless efforts of Tina Caputo, along with Sarah Christensen, Danielle Salvas, Lisa Langille and Jayme Fowler.
“Congratulations to our GTMHA Jr. Smokies on their bronze medals. Well done.”