Its been a banner year for the Whistler Winterhawks bantam hockey team a two-banner year to be more exact.
Last weekend the team won its championship game against the North Shore Winter Club C1 team, adding the Lions Gate League Playoff Champions banner to the regular season banner they claimed a few weeks earlier after going all 22 games without a single loss or tie. They tied two games in the eight-game playoff round robin while they were missing their top scorer, but didnt lose a single game all season.
Its definitely not what the team expected. For the first time in years the Whistler Minor Hockey Association only had 15 players come forward in the bantam age group (13-14) usually Whistler fields two teams in that category.
As a result the players that did come out were of very different abilities, from beginners to superstars, but the team still managed to play consistently against their components.
"This is a great group of kids, and they kept their heads up the whole season. It would have been easy to play down to the level to some of the other teams out there this year, but they played every game at a high level," said coach Richard Kelly.
"From the beginning we werent focussed on winning as much as working on skills, and developing all of our players so they have the potential to go on to the next level. Theres a few players that have the potential to go on and play varsity for scholarships one day, and I know Nadine Crowe could go far in womens hockey.
"We practised and played a really refined game, even if it didnt take our A game to win."
The players and the parents also emphasized sportsmanship, something they didnt always see from opposing teams and parents. "I know I couldnt be prouder of these kids, the level of sportsmanship and class, its what you want to see out there on the ice in a minor hockey game," said Kelly.
In penalty minutes, the Winterhawks had the third fewest out of 15 teams in the league during the regular season, with no fights or major penalties.
The top scorer on the team was the captain, Garrett Milan, who scored an incredible 84 goals in 28 games.
Milan is also a strong skier, and qualified to go to Keystone, Colorado last month to take part in the Sports Illustrated Snow Search. During his absence, and with four other players missing, the team had its first close call in the playoffs, but still came away with a tie.
"Even when things were going sideways for us, the team still found a way to pull it off," said Kelly.
Behind Milan, defencemen Brett Kelly and Eric Smith scored 15 goals and 14 goals respectively, while helping goalie Luke Braidwood to a 1.36 goals against average in the regular season and a 1.13 average in the playoffs. Nine of his regular season wins were shutouts, and he added two more in the playoffs.
As a team, the Winterhawks also outscored their opponents 211 to 30 in the regular season, averaging 9.95 goals a game.
Atom team takes regular season banner
The Winterhawks Bantam C1 team wasnt the only team to add to Meadow Park Arenas growing collection of banners.
On March 12-13, Whistler hosted 400 9-10 year olds from North Vancouver, Squamish, West Vancouver, Hollyburn, North Shore Winter Club and Whistler to compete in the Atom Championship Banner Playoffs.
The Whistler C1 team, which had been eliminated from the Lions Gate playoffs, won the regular season for Capilano. They also played against the North Shore Winter Club in the championships, winning their last game 8-6.
Hollyburn took both the regular season and playoff banners for Lions Gate.
The Whistler Minor Hockey Association would like to thank the sponsors, including Nesters Market, which supplied the players with juice and snacks. The MVP awards were sponsored by Great Games and Toys, Kevin Sopp and Sportstop, McDonalds, Rogers Video, and the Old Spaghetti Factory. Coast Mountain Photography also came out to take photos, which are available at www.coastphoto.com.
The league would also like to thank the parent volunteers, including Sheena Fairly, Debbie Hosner and Kelly Tabour.