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Atom 'A' Winterhawks capture banner

Whistler knocks off top two teams



The Whistler Winterhawks atom 'A' team put up a couple big wins at its final four tournament on the weekend.

But the Winterhawks were so efficient in putting away the competition, they were actually denied a proper celebration. Whistler won its first two games, and didn't need their third scheduled contest, as they couldn't be caught by any of the three other teams in the tournament.

"We didn't really get a chance to celebrate at the end. We didn't know at the time that we wouldn't be playing that last game, so they didn't get a chance to throw their gloves or anything like that," head coach John Lanteigne said. "It would have been nice for them to get a chance to do that."

It wasn't easy, either, as the third-ranked Winterhawks went higher and dispatched No. 1 Squamish and No. 2 West Vancouver, both in 3-2 games, en route to clinching the title.

"Our first two games were against the first- and second-place teams and we ended up winning those, and based on the points, nobody could catch us," Lanteigne said. "We had beaten those teams in the regular season before, so we knew we could do it, but they were definitely hard-fought games. Each of the games were one-goal games, so our kids played hard right to the very end of every single game. It paid off for us."

Securing their spot in the tournament itself was no easy feat, either, as the Winterhawks made it by the skin of their teeth, scoring the winning goal in qualifying games with 20 and 1.2 seconds remaining, respectively.

"There were a couple big goals scored in the playoff round to get into the final four that stand out because that's pretty fresh," Lanteigne said. "In that second game, we only had the lead in the hockey game for 1.2 seconds, and that was right at the end there.

"It was their dedication, the way they worked hard every single shift," he added.

Lanteigne was also impressed with how the players progressed, noting the younger, 2008-born players made strides as the season went on.

"In their first year of rep, we watched them develop and start to make really strong contributions," he said.

The encouraging thing is that the players have several years of hockey ahead of them, and with the talent that they have, they'll likely have the chance to mob their goaltender and receive their banner immediately after clinching it sooner rather than later."They'll get the chance, I'm sure," Lanteigne said.