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Whistler pucksters look to give Grizzlies back-to-back titles

Flann, Palm leading the way in Revelstoke
Looking for two Cody Flann, shown here celebrating the Revelstoke Grizzlies' Cyclone Taylor Cup victory in April, is looking for a second straight provincial championship. Photo submitted

Though Cody Flann is one constant in the Revelstoke Grizzlies' dressing room in the 2019-20 season, he's only one of a few.

Through graduation and promotion, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League squad and defending Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial champion found itself turning over roughly half its team heading into this year.

But the Whistler sniper was one of the returnees, and he's taken on a major role in helping return the Grizzlies to the top of the Birks Division and once again contending for a league crown.

"The other teams are gunning for us this year, being champions and all. They want to beat us and it just makes it that much harder," said Flann. "We have a really young team this year and they're slowly getting used to the spirit of this league. We're finding success and we're getting better each week."

Flann, currently sidelined with a concussion, leads the Grizzlies with 23 points (seven goals and 16 assists) in 14 games and has only been held off the scoresheet twice.

While Flann hopes to return to action soon, he's taking his recovery week-by-week.

"I know how to handle myself now, rest up, get back as soon as I can," he said.

The 19-year-old is one of the Jr. 'B' team's veterans, boasting the associate captain's 'A' on his sweater to prove it.

"It's a big step in that way," he said. "We have all new captains, so we're learning just as much as the rookies how to handle ourselves and get everyone motivated.

"It's hard. It's a good challenge, but I feel like we're getting better at it as the year goes on and it's all that you can ask for."

Because of the turnover at the start of the year and a rash of early-season injuries, Flann hasn't been able to skate alongside a consistent set of linemates for all that long, though he hopes to develop some chemistry once he returns to the lineup.

When he does, he'll be back with another hometown player in goalie Drew Palm, who debuted this season.

Though Flann is the longer-tenured of the two Whistlerites, it was actually Palm's family that had the initial connection to Revelstoke and connected him with the Grizzlies. Flann is glad to have a childhood pal with him on the team.

"It's nice to have a billet brother and not be all alone in the house. You have someone to talk to," Flann said.

Flann anticipates that this will be his final year of competitive hockey as he'll look to start his post-secondary education next fall.

For his part, Palm has put together a solid rookie season, especially in recent weeks, making six consecutive starts with an overall 6-3-2 record and a shutout in eight total contests, earning the KIJHL's second star of the week honour on Nov. 5.

"It's been good for me so far, just working hard every day, getting better at hockey," he said.

Goalie Palm joined the Grizzlies this year after playing with the North Island Silvertips of the BC Major Midget League last season, and he acknowledged some differences in the style of play.

"Major midget is more of a skill league," the 18-year-old said, noting many of last year's standouts went to Western Hockey League and Jr. 'A' teams this season. "The KI is more of a hard-working league. It's more gritty. There are bigger guys here that you won't see in midget.

"There's big hits everywhere and there's a lot of physicality in the league."

With the Grizzlies, Palm has worked especially hard to be the same big-but-athletic goalie night-in and night-out. Getting the opportunity to play regularly, especially in recent weeks, has allowed him time to get on a roll.

"I struggle a little bit with being consistent. Last year, I had games where I felt really good and I was playing well, and games where I would let a few bad goals in," he said. "It's mostly a mindset coming into a game. Sometimes you won't feel confident and you'll have to find ways to hype yourself up about the game, or work through bad goals. It's all about preparation for me, so working hard in practice every day, getting better and feeling confident before I come into a game on the weekend."

Though it's early in the season, Palm is weighing his options, looking at attending post-secondary, though open to a Jr. 'A' offer to continue his career.