“They were big and strong and fast-moving and we were small and fast-moving,” said coach Joe Quewezance of the gold medal final that his Team BC boys played against Team Saskatchewan at the Canadian Aboriginal Hockey Championship, last Saturday. Who would prevail?
Seventeen-year-old left-winger Dyllan James, of Dogwood Valley, had tried out for the team last year and made it to the final round of cuts — but this April he was selected to the 20-player roster, from 110 tryouts.
“We had a camp at 100 Mile House from Friday to Sunday,” said James, a Grade 11 student at Hope secondary. “We were split into five teams and played five games.”
With that many players vying for 20 spots, it could be difficult to stand out in the crowd. Some players revert to wearing unique-coloured gloves or helmets — but James chose to keep it simple.
“Play hard and the coach will notice you,” he said, adding, “I had a good feeling that I would be chosen.”
“Dyllan tried out last year,” recalled coach Quewezance (pronounced CUE zahnce). “Lots of kids try out and they just need an extra year to improve. He improved a lot!
“Everyone can skate, at that level,” he said, “but it comes down to strength. Dyllan played very well for us in Kahnawake. He worked very hard… our hardest worker over there — and he was consistent.”
The selected team had one practice in 100 Mile House, then met again at the Richmond Oval for a practice before flying out to Quebec for a week of hockey.
James’ mom, Vanessa, flew out a few days later to watch the games and visit Montreal with the team.
“Pretty much all of the provinces had a team,” said Dyllan, “except there was Team Atlantic for the Maritimes and Team North for the territories.
“We were in a pool with Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Team Atlantic and we had three round-robin games and a quarter and semi-final before the final.”
Saskatchewan had been seeded fifth of the eight teams and B.C. was seeded first, on the strength of their first-ever gold-medal win last year.
“In the quarter-final, we beat Team Atlantic 7-2, I believe,” said James, who recorded a goal and two assists at the tournament. “Then in the semi-final against Manitoba, we beat them in a shoot-out, 3-2.”
The win placed B.C. against Saskatchewan, a team with a history of six championships in the last seven years.
B.C. had beaten them 3-0 in the first game of the round-robin but Quewezance said, “I just knew we were going to have to play them again.
“In the final, our team got tired and we were making some bad plays,” he recalled. “That even goes back to the Manitoba game, in the semi-final.
“Saskatchewan scored first, then we tied it, and then they scored again.
“It was 2-1, going into the third period and we put on a surge and tied it up, a couple of minutes in,” said Quewezance. “But we let in a bad third goal and it kind of deflated us.”
Another Saskatchewan goal and a late empty-netter sealed the 5-2 win for the prairie team — which celebrated double gold with their girls’ team.
Coach Quewezance expressed high hopes for the 2015 version of Team B.C., with 14 of this year’s players eligible to return.
“Hopefully, Dyllan will come back even bigger and stronger next year,” said Quewezance.