With spring break holidays taking a toll on their roster, the Whistler Winterhawks Bantam C1 team headed to the Paul Brenner Memorial Bantam Tournament in Chilliwack last weekend with modest expectations.
After winning both the regular season and playoff banners for their division, going undefeated in 30 games, the team entered the Paul Brenner tournament against some of the best teams from the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and Interior leagues with just two centres, three defencemen and six wingers.
Undermanned and undersized, the Winterhawks rallied in each of the seven games they played, losing just one pool game, to claim the overall trophy.
"The players did a remarkable job considering the level of competition, and the fact that they were outmanned and outweighed in every game they played," said head coach Richard Kelly. "Fatigue was definitely a factor, as were bumps and bruises. In spite of this we outshot every team we played."
The Winterhawks finished with averages of 5.14 goals per game and just 1.71 goals against. The team also racked up one of the lowest penalty minute totals of any of the 25 participating teams.
Centres David Sadler and Garrett Milan logged a lot of ice time over the weekend, but still managed to play good two-way hockey. Milan, the teams top scorer in the regular season, wrapped up the tournament with 21 points.
Brett Kelly, Ethan Fairley and Eric Smith rotated on defence, killing penalties and cycling the puck up the ice. Kelly also added some offence, finishing with eight points.
The wingers were Jesse Clemiss, Kit Browning, Takuma Ida, Ross Young, Jordan Macdonald and Keenan Nagle. With a full bench, the wingers helped carry the centres and defencemen, while contributing on both sides of the centre line. Clemiss led all of the wingers with nine goals over the tournament.
Winterhawks goalie Luke Braidwood sprained his wrist snowboarding three days before the tournament. Fortunately the teams trainer, Bill Macdonald, is a paramedic in Whistler and taped Braidwoods wrist before each game. Macdonald also helped to keep the other players in the game with ice, tape, and good advice.
Assistant coach Mark Sadler and team manager Craig Smith ran the gates for the team, while the players parents helped out any way they could from the sidelines.
"I was amazed by the players resiliency, work ethic and collective sense of purpose. Their success in this tournament was quite an accomplishment and all of them matured as players over the course of a four-day weekend," said Kelly.
This year the Winterhawks could field only one Bantam team, combining all of the 13-14 year old players in Whistler and Pemberton on one team. The skill level for the players varied from beginners to veterans, but by the end of the regular season all of the players were making a contribution.
Kelly says his goal coming into the season was to develop skills and prepare the players for Midget level hockey, with the potential of going even further. Winning was just a bonus.