As the midget hockey season came to an end, the Squamish-Whistler team played through six games — and won five of them — before taking home bronze from the provincial championship.
"The bronze medal game is a hard game to play for, because we were playing literally hours after a heartbreak loss against Terrace to go into the final game," coach Mike Kleso said. "It was a hard game to prepare for the players, to get up and ready to play."
The Squamish team started off strong on March 17 with 7-3 against Salmon Arm. They won with 7-1 against West Kootenay North the next day. On March 19, they repeated the same score of 7-1 against Cranbrook and 3-2 against Powell River. The next day saw a 3-2 loss to Terrace, then a 2-1 win against Powell River.
"Throughout the entire tournament, our best player every game and who was always performing would be Ryan Hunter. He brought the same intensity to every game, and he was consistent," Kleso said.
The forward inspired the rest of the team to keep hustling and bring their game to the next level.
It's the fourth time the Squamish-Whistler midget team has been to provincials since they joined forces in 2015. The first year, they won the championship. The following two years, they finished fourth. Now, they're back in the top three, having just medaled bronze.
There are seven players ageing out of minor hockey in Squamish. Captain Jeremy Smith, Jesse Krycanowski, goalie John Hunter, assistant captain Zach Greenfield, Noah Vague, Avery Hartitt and Adam Corless have all played their last midget game. The team will be made up of many new players next year.
For next season, Kleso said, "The only way we can keep this pursuit of excellence going is to keep the combined program running. There are some people within the association who don't want the combined program, but it builds results."
The only way to get to — and win — provincials is to also combine the Bantam and Pee Wee levels, Kleso added.