In his first season with the club, Cody Flann was a major contributor to the Revelstoke Grizzlies regaining their growl in 2017-18.
The 18-year-old Whistlerite tied for a team-best 22 goals, and posted 37 points overall in the regular season as he was named Revelstoke's rookie of the year alongside Sho Takai.
He stepped it up in the playoffs, contributing six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, just one back of team leaders Jordan Robertson and Ryan Pereverzoff. Those contributions helped take the Grizzlies all the way to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League finals, where they ultimately fell to the Kimberley Dynamiters in six games.
Flann credited Revelstoke for coming back to knot the series after losing the first two games on the road in Kimberley. However, the Dynamiters then won Games 5 and 6 to wrap the series on April 6 and move on to the Cyclone Taylor Cup tournament to determine the best Jr. 'B' team in the province.
"There's no quit in our team," he said. "We came up a bit short. They have a really good team, they're skilled and well coached. They knew what they were going to do and executed every time they were on the ice.
"It was a hard series, but well fought."
Teammate and fellow Whistlerite Owen Hart credited the Dynamiters for their strong play, but suggested that the Grizzlies' gauntlet to make the final, with two of three series going the maximum seven games and seven total overtime games, caught up with the team.
"The bounces go your way sometimes, and sometimes they don't," he said. "It could have been a bit of fatigue but I can't take anything away from (the Dynamiters).
"Even though we didn't play as well, we still felt like we could have won the championship."
While Flann expected his junior career to get off on a strong note, he acknowledged he surprised even himself.
"Early on, I got on a really good roll and gained my confidence and I grew that the whole season," he said. "I was confident, but I was not expecting (anything) this good."
Flann, whose longest road trips outside of tournaments were up and down the Sea to Sky Highway when he played at the rep level, said adjusting to more travel time was one challenge.
Flann also had to get used to being away from home, though he settled in nicely with former Whistlerites David and Shelley Evans as billets in Revelstoke.
"I was lucky enough to have a really nice billet family and a nice billet house. I'm pretty much family with them now," Flann said. "They want me to come visit all the time."
On the ice, Flann had to figure out how to make his own time and space, as his challengers were more formidable here than in lower levels.
"There are a lot of 20-year-olds, which is definitely an adjustment because they're bigger and stronger," he said. "I'm a smaller guy, so that was one of the challenges for me."
Late in the season, Flann got another taste of home as the Grizzlies traded for Hart from the Princeton Posse.
After posting 13 points with the Posse, Hart chipped in four points in 13 regular season games in Revelstoke before adding three points in 16 playoff games.
"In Princeton, the season had already been over and it was an awesome opportunity to join a strong team," he said. "When it happened, I was super excited because I've looked at Revelstoke before. I played them this season and I knew how good they were."
Hart knew the Evanses from their time in Whistler and was thrilled to stay with them.
Hart expects his junior career is likely over, as he plans to forego his 20-year-old season to start his education next year. He's hoping to attend the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna for management.
"I'll join a beer league team if I go, try to keep on the ice a little bit," Hart said with a chuckle.
Flann hopes to jump a level to play Jr. 'A' next year. He was an affiliated player with the British Columbia Hockey League's Salmon Arm Silverbacks this year and the mutual familiarity could come in handy when he's trying to make an impression for the 2018-19 campaign.
It could be a different-looking club next year, as other young stars like Flann rise while the veteran core has used up its junior eligibility. Still, he hopes the run—the Grizzlies' first trip to the final since winning the championship in 2010—helped stoke some excitement in the mountain town and will help attract an influx of strong players in seasons to come.
"I hope good players come here and experience the fans because the fans here are amazing," he said. "We're definitely the loudest rink in the (league), 100 per cent.
"All the skiers became diehard fans and they treated us like celebrities. It was a pretty amazing experience, for sure."