A pair of valley-based hockey teams have had strong showings at provincial competitions.
The Windermere Valley Minor Hockey Association midget girls and boys bantam teams each took part in provincial competitions over the last week. The girls played in Salmon Arm from March 19 to 23, while the boys played in Vanderhoof from March 18 to 22.
The bantam boys had an especially strong showing, placing second overall. The team’s only two losses came in games against eventual champion Burns Lake, including a nail-biting 4-3 loss in the championship game. Burns Lake had won all their previous games by an average score of 10-1 heading into the final game, and Windermere undoubtedly gave them their toughest challenge of the tournament.
“The boys played with a lot of heart, and a lot of emotion,” coach Brian Hoobanoff said. “It feels really good (to place second). The boys were a bit disappointed at first, but they realized to place second is a very high achievement… I’m very proud of them, and they’re proud of themselves.”
Hoobanoff wanted to especially thank the various communities and sponsors that helped them raise the money necessary for the trip. He said that although they had a goal of $10,000, they ended up raising over $12,500.
“I think they boys learned that even coming from a small area, we could compete at a high level,” Hoobanoff said. “They worked together as a team, and that’s how they got as far as they did. It was an excellent performance both on and off the ice, they represented our town extremely well.”
Meanwhile, in Salmon Arm, the midget girls hockey team was playing some of their last games as a team together, as many of the players will be too old to play as part of the association any longer. Playing with a short bench all season, the girls had a good stretch of games against some of the top teams in the province, finishing tied for fourth after six games of round robin play.
“I think the girls were pretty hard on themselves,” manager Louise Helmer said. “They thought they had some bad games, but they did the best they could for the situation.”
The team opened strong with back-to-back 1-0 victories over the Vancouver Island Hockey Association and the team from Surrey, but played eventual champion Richmond in the next round, losing 3-1. The team ended up with a record of three wins and three losses, and considering they only had 11 skaters, this is nothing to be ashamed of. According to Helmer, the hardest part for the team was actually the realization that many of the girls wouldn’t have an opportunity to play together again.
“They were more upset that this was their last game together, than that they lost,” Helmer said. “I think what the girls brought home from this is something that they’ve known all along — that they have built some incredible friendships. It was incredibly emotional for the girls, when they realized as they were going off the ice, that this was the last time they were going to play together. It’s an amazing group of young women, and I think they got from minor sports what the organizers and we as parents hope they get, that it’s not just about winning or losing.”