You wouldn’t know it by looking at the weather, but spring is here — and it’s time to thaw the ice at the Hope Arena … if they can find enough heat to get it melting.
Before that, there’s one last kick at the puck, at the 23rd annual Friendship Tournament this weekend.
Teams will be drafted today (Thursday), using the players’ stated skill levels to help balance the teams. It’s a no contact and no slapshot event, with a focus on fun and fair play.
To make it clear, the rules state:
• Three penalties in a game for one player and they sit out the rest of the game
• Fighting or unsportsmanlike conduct brings an ejection from the tournament
• No player can score more than three goals in a game.
Rec centre staffer Natalie Lewis said on Monday, “We have 50 people registered so far. This tournament draws in players mainly from the Hope/Chilliwack area but they also come from Alberta, Lillooet and the greater Vancouver area.”
The cost for early-birds was $60 up until March 14th and it went up another $10 for the procrastinators.
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Hope’s two atom teams attended concurrent tournaments in Chilliwack last weekend, one for the house team and one for the rep.
It’s the first time in about 20 years that Hope has formed an atom rep team – and while the reps had encouraging results, the house team suffered from the imbalance of talent.
They only won one game all year, though they came close in Chilliwack, said Wildcats C coach Lui Talarico.
“We lost our first game 8-1, then 11-1 – then it was 2-1 against Chilliwack in our third game. We pulled our goalie to get the tying goal but we couldn’t get it. We don’t have a lot of scoring and our goalie gets about 50 shots a game!
“It actually should have been a 2-1 lead for us in the first but there was a disallowed goal,” said Talarico, who has been back behind the bench for the last four years, though his son Michael graduated from minor hockey nine years ago.
“Their goalie reached back and pulled the puck out of the net and the ref said it never went in. Even the Chilliwack parents said it went in.”
With a record like theirs, the team did well to play for the love of the game and this spirit caught the eye of Perry Solkowski of CTV news.
If you haven’t seen the video, Google “Perry CTV Wildcats.” It’s very well done and the team – and all of Hope – can be proud of the players’ starring roles.
“It was really nice of them to come out and do the story,” said Talarico. “It gave the kids a big lift.”
Meanwhile, the atom A-1 team got their lift from winning four out of five games in their four-team event.
They started on Friday night with a 6-2 win over Chilliwack’s A-3 squad, followed by their only loss: 7-4 against Penticton.
“We came out skating hard,” said team manager Jesse James, “but Penticton scored five straight goals in the second period and we just couldn’t catch them.”
Hope had met Cloverdale a number of times this season, usually getting the edge on them. This trend continued again, with a 4-2 win for Hope.
The Wildcats met Chilliwack again in the semi-final and had a 5-2 lead before letting Chilliwack make it interesting.
“They scored with 3:30 to go, to make it 5-3, then they pulled their goalie and scored again with 54 seconds to go,” said James.
Hope met Penticton in the championship match on Sunday at Twins Rinks. Connor Douglas and Connor James gave Hope a 2-0 lead in the first frame, then Jesse’s son Marcus score twice to put Hope ahead 4-2 in the third period.
Penticton clawed their way back, getting the tying goal past Dawson Pelletier with 3:16 to go.
Tied after regulation, it went straight to the shoot-out and Hope chose to shoot second.
Jesse said it was very stressful on everyone – and all the shots were on-net. The first two shots were saved, then Penticton scored and Connor James tied it up.
Penticton scored on their third attempt, forcing Kade Hansen to match it … which he did.
Penticton couldn’t get their fourth shot past Pelletier, so it was down to Gavin Michaud for the win.
“Gavin deked and the goalie went down,” said Jesse. “Then Gavin went left to his forehand and put it in.”
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Fifteen-year-old Blake Deschenes has been officiating hockey for three years now and has been given a great honour in being chosen to line in the provincial peewee AAA tier 1 tournament that is running this week at the Langley Events Centre.
“He was dead tired after today’s games,” said Blake’s mom Brenda on Monday. “He has two more tomorrow at 5 and 8 p.m., then it will be decided if he will be on any of the Thursday games, with the championship game going at 8 p.m.
“He is the only level 1 official,” added Brenda. “They are evaluated after every game and told what things they as officials can improve on.”