It had been almost 20 years since Hope had an atom rep hockey team, so this year’s atom rep Wildcats may be the start of a new tradition.
The 15 A-division players finished third in league play in the 10-team Flight 4, then placed third in the playoffs — giving them a berth in the final four tournament, held last weekend in Port Moody.
Team manager Jesse James said on Monday that the boys had a 1-1-1 record after three games, giving them second place overall.
“We were 47 seconds from potentially winning it all!” enthused head coach Ric Hampton. “We came back from being down 3-0 to tie it 3-3 — but Port Moody scored in the last minute, or we would have gone to overtime. I knew we’d do well but not that well!”
“We had played them three times this season already,” said James, whose son Marcus plays on the team. “We beat them twice 6-5 and they beat us 5-3 in January.”
The Wildcats had a similar problem to the Vancouver Canucks on the weekend, granting a 3-0 lead before clawing back to respectability. Friday night, it was Abbotsford A-3 that got the jump on Hope.
“We got down 3-0 in the first, then scored once in the first and two more in the third to tie it,” said James. Connor Douglas book-ended two goals and Kade Hansen got the middle one. Marcus James assisted twice, while Gavin Michaud and Sam Reynen each recorded one.
In Saturday’s match versus Port Moody, Michaud and Hansen scored once each, Brandon Pennell assisted once and Douglas was helped on his goal by Connor James of Chehalis.
“Connor has an even longer commute than coach Ric,” said Jesse. Hampton drives in from Sasquatch Park, on the east side of Harrison Lake.
Sunday, the boys swept through Chilliwack’s A-3 squad, giving goalie Kalen Aujla a bit of a breather. Aujla had to backstop all three games, as colleague Dawson Pelletier was ill all weekend.
Hansen netted a hat trick, Douglas got another two goals and Marcus James and Reynen contributed singles. Michaud helped on three goals, Jarren Payant assisted twice and Pennell and Deven Boldway each assisted once in the 7-1 win.
“It’s the funnest team I’ve had in 20 years of coaching,” said Hampton. “It’s a good, good group of kids and parents.”
Ten of the 15 are second-year players and would be moving up to peewee next year, said Hampton.
“I’m willing to coach peewee rep next year,” he added, “and I hope atom rep will continue, too. There’s a good group of kids coming into atom. It’s up to the parents, though.”