The Whistler Winterhawks Peewee team is headed to the provincial Tier 3 championships after winning league playoffs last week.
The team had a solid season with a 12-4-2 record in their division and finished just two points behind the top team from the North Shore Winter Club. That put them firmly in the playoffs, a round-robin tournament where they were ranked based on wins and losses, and points for and against.
"We were in a position in Whistler where we struggled to get enough players, so almost half of our peewee players were in their first year (with the rep team)," said head coach Greg Welsh. "We also didn't have any goalies, so we ended up using two Atom-age goalies, bringing up goalies that were 10 years old to play against kids who were 11 and 12. I thought that was a big accomplishment.
"Our second-year players were very strong and our first-year players improved immensely over the year. From start to finish there was a big difference."
The team also had to overcome the Olympics to make it through the league playoffs. Originally the goal was to wrap up all league play and playoffs before the start of the Games, but the league only managed to squeeze in the regular season. As a result the Winterhawks found themselves without a second-year defenceman and a goalie heading into the tournament as their families left town.
In the playoff tournament the team made it through the single game elimination round, then played a four-point series round robin where they lost their first game but won the next two. Luckily the first place team was upset by a lower-placed team in the tournament, which allowed the Winterhawks to take the championship banner.
The provincial championships take place in Winfield, outside of Kelowna, from March 6 to 11.
Some Atom players who stepped up a level to Peewee two seasons ago will be making their second appearance at the provincials.
Welsh credited parents and volunteers for making the Whistler Minor Hockey Association a contender, able to field both league and rep teams in many age categories.
"I think it's the fact that we're a small but very dedicated group of volunteers, as well as the fact that there's a lot of ice time available to the kids - well, not a lot but enough," he said.
"There's also a lot of good athletes that are breeding good athletes here and it's a pretty active town, so though we don't always have the numbers we have the quality."
The only age group without a rep team this year - and there has to be a full league team before a rep team can be put together - was at the bantam level, and they were only short by a few players.
"It's really difficult to play up here," he said. "Almost every game is a travel of an hour and a half away, except for Squamish and I think out of the last seven or eight years we've only had (Squamish) in our league twice. This year we traveled as far as Chilliwack, we traveled to Seattle twice, Semiahmoo, White Rock, Richmond. It takes a lot of coordination and determination and dedication to pull it off."
The team included Michael Boulanger, Thomas Cankovic, Zachary Davis, Cole Demers (goalie), Taylor Derynick, Jacob Fields, Owen Hart, Gavin Hemmons, Hugh Horler, Evan Horvath, Liam Long, Liam McIvor, Benjamin Raffler, Austin Reith, Gabriel Rushbrook, Connor Toop, Beck Warm (goalie) and Tyler Welsh.
Assistant coaches were Anton Horvath, Dan Davis and Keith McIvor.