Bantam Wildcats win home tournament

Hope hockey team extended their unbeaten streak into the tournament

Bantam C1 Wildcat forward

Bantam C1 Wildcat forward

The Hope bantam C1 Wildcats won five straight games at their home tournament last weekend, extending an unbeaten streak that lasted through 24 games before being broken by a 2-1 loss on Monday night in Chilliwack. The streak included league, playoff and tournament games.

The eight-team tournament got underway on Friday afternoon, with Hope winning 5-3 over a team from Vancouver’s Arbutus Club. Damon Campbell led the way with three goals and Dylan Younie contributed two assists.

Saturday’s match against Abbotsford saw a tight game — and an acrobatic play that was captured by photographer Shanon Fischer. It was in the third period, with a breakaway opportunity for Marcus James.

“I was just skating at my very top speed, trying to beat the goalie to the puck,” recalled James.  “But then, when the goalie came out of his net there was nothing I could do to stop. Next thing I knew, I was in the air doing a front flip.”

Goalie David Jesson smothered the puck and James did a rolling crash onto the ice. He was able to continue playing.

Assistant coach, Clayton Kellum said, “There was slight contact that was unavoidable since they both figured they were going to get there first.

“From a goaltender’s point of view, that’s the chance you take. I did the exact routine on Saturday night myself. It worked out but I took a bump. Goalies… we’re different!”

Kade Hansen popped in the winning goal, to give the Wildcats a 4-3 win.

Hope had easy wins over Kamloops and Quesnel, putting them into Sunday’s championship game versus Chilliwack C2.

“We had beaten them 10-4 and 5-3 in league play,” said head coach, Mike Talarico.

“But in this one, they got the first goal in the second period. We were down 1-0 till close to the end of the period but we kept puttin’ away at it… kept playing our game.

“We’ve really preached to them that we need to win the game in our own end and the offensive part will come — and it did.”

Shaun Mitchell’s lone goal of the tournament was the winner, propped up by singles from Marcus James and Elijah John. The 3-1 victory gave the team their second tournament championship of the season.

“All three lines were firing on all cylinders the whole weekend,” said Talarico. Each line works differently than the others. One skates around and cycles the puck. Another is pure speed — and the other is all hard work, grinding it out and checking tightly.”

Kellum (Talarico’s cousin) added, “All the boys played their hearts out and they got what they earned. They made us the happiest we can be, when it comes to coaching — again!

“Mike and I relish the moments of them having such good times and memories, the same as we did at that age.

“Our goalie, Michael Frayn, deserves as much credit as the rest of them,” said Kellum. “He held us in many times, when we could have gone down by a goal or more.”

Player-of-the-game awards went to Dylan Younie, Damon Campbell, Kade Hansen, Jerome Campbell and Michael Frayn. The most sportsmanlike Wildcats were  Devin Frayn, Connor Douglas, Vinny Pellegrino, Shaun Mitchell and Troy Biltzan.

Vanessa James and her husband Jesse were tournament coordinators and Vanessa said, “I think it’s important to provide a very well-run tournament, in order to build up that reputation for having tournaments that people want to return to. It’s good for the association and the town.

“Two of the visiting teams had played here last year, enjoyed the tournament and returned — and Surrey told me they would be returning next year as well.”