The Whistler Winterhawks left the competition in the dust at the Richmond Icebreaker tournament earlier in the month.
Both the U18 and U13 teams went undefeated in the tournament with a combined record of 9-0-1.
The U13 Winterhawks swept their five-game schedule, taking home the gold with their only real test coming in the finals against a team they had already beaten once in the round robin, according to head coach David Metcalf.
“It was interesting—one of their players wasn’t there for the preliminary game and he was probably their best player, so in the final this kid appeared out of nowhere and I think he scored two of their goals and gave us a run for our money, which was great. But the kids withstood it and came out victorious,” he said.
“I think 5-3 was the final of the last game. So it was a close one and we were behind 3-2 heading into the third period, so for us it was a great experience because we had never really been behind before in the rest of our games in the regular season and it really tested the kids to know that they could work doubly hard to get back in it and win it.”
The MVP of the final game went to Asher Livingston due to the work ethic he displayed throughout the tournament. Other notable performances included Logan Hoverd who scored a hat trick to help lead his team to victory.
After scoring three goals in the third period to battle back from a one-goal deficit, Metcalf says the celebration by the players on the ice resembled Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“The kids focused entirely on the game, so we actually tied it up shortly in the third period. We got the go-ahead-goal with about five minutes to go and then the insurance goal was at about 1:30,” he said. “But the kids stuck with it the whole way and as soon as that buzzer went, they all jumped on the goalie and threw all their gloves and sticks in the air. I don’t know how they all collected their own gear after all the medals were handed out.”
Including the tournament games, the U13 Winterhawks have improved to 12-0-0 on the season, but when asked if they have a strong chance at winning the league championship banner this year, Metcalf said he tries not to focus too much on winning games but, instead, on winning each shift and playing the right way.
“My style of coaching … we talk about winning the puck and winning the shift. So our focus is not on winning [games] at all, that’s a by-product of all the hard work we do,” he said. “So that’s the key message for the kids is just every time they go out there, give it everything they’ve got and do their best, and when they come off the ice, just rest up for the next shift. And if we win, fantastic, if not, so be it, at least we tried our best and so far that formula has worked for us.”
The U18 Winterhawks also went undefeated in the Icebreaker Tournament in Richmond, albeit with one tie. But unlike their U13 counterparts, the U18 team had a much more difficult road to the championship with multiple close games along the way, including a 1-0 shutout win in the semi-finals against Coquitlam, where the Winterhawks goalie Josh Mackenzie stole the show, according to assistant coach Mike Knapton.
“Our goalie just stood on his head against Coquitlam. They were quite good and had beaten us in a previous tournament. So [that win] took us into the finals against the one team that had also not lost. We ended up doing quite well against Langley and we ended up winning 6-1. The kids just all came together and were very determined to win,” he said.
“It was quite amazing, especially for the Grade 12 kids. I’ve coached a lot of the Grade 11 and 12 kids, but I don’t think they’ve had much success in past tournaments, so it was a big win for them. And just over the years teaching them hockey and finally seeing some success here is pretty rewarding as a coach and hopefully it is a building block for the future teams too for the next couple years.”
When asked about what’s next for the team this year after their big tournament win, Knapton kept it short and sweet saying they will be “pumping for number one and to take home a championship.”