The Whistler Secondary School (WSS) Storm didn't exactly expect to be in the position it was, according to head coach Scott Patterson.
That position was in the BC High School Hockey League's (BCHSHL) Tier 3 title game against the Robert Bateman Secondary School Timberwolves of Abbotsford. In the end, WSS came away with a 6-4 victory in Coquitlam on May 18.
Patterson said the Storm was more at home in the Tier 3 division after playing in Tier 2 last year. Tier 2, he noted, has a strong batch of players and so sliding down one division ensured WSS was a strong team, though not one that annihilated all comers.
"I didn't really see a championship on the horizon," he said. "I just wanted us to go out there and be competitive. We were in the right league. That was the competition that we were capable of having a good time with."
The championship game itself was a thriller, as the Storm — who often fell behind early and had to come back, once again rallied after trailing.
"It was a really exciting game, but the last three games have all been exciting," he said. "The really cool thing is to watch the boys step up and we had different players that in the right circumstances came up and they delivered with a goal or a great play. They were game-changers."
Patterson said one of the two big moments in the game was a clutch save by goaltender Drew Palm when the game was still tight.
"Their whole team thought they'd scored," Patterson said. "When the ref was consulting his linesmen, Drew just showed them the puck in his glove, so it was kind of fun."
The other was a penalty-shot goal courtesy of Adam Corless in the second period that helped WSS rally from a 2-1 deficit to sit tied 3-3 at the second intermission. Other scorers were Cody Flann and Xavier Cadoret with two each, while Tony Andrea also tallied.
Off the scoresheet, Patterson also had praise for defenceman Eric Smith, who helped cue up the rest of the rearguards in a stifling system.
"Eric was really good on the back end. He made life difficult for guys in front of the net, across the blue line, and the rest of the defence used him as an example," he said.
And off the ice, Patterson's right-hand man, Whistler hockey stalwart Bob Andrea, also played a major role in the WSS season.
"Bob Andrea is a really great coach. He has a knack for simplifying things and calming everybody down, keeping them loose," he said.
Being the first BCHSHL banner for Whistler, Patterson feels it's important to share the accomplishment with the Whistler Minor Hockey Association, which helped groom a number of the players and helped to plug some gaps in the roster.
"I'm going to talk to (WSS principal) Nolan (Cox) and (WMHA president) Steve (Legge) and we'll work out something because Whistler Minor Hockey was great in stepping up," Patterson said. "We didn't have a goalie, so to round out our roster, we asked Drew Palm.
"It was a good bunch of kids. They'd all played together through the Whistler Minor Hockey Association for years and they'd all been coached by Bob for years."
Palm, a Coast Mountain Academy student, joined Pemberton Secondary School students Avery Hargitt and Ethan Cox on the team to help get the roster to a sustainable size.
Patterson said with other commitments coming up at various points in the season, on any given night, any team could be playing shorthanded, the Storm included. However, he said the squad weathered those issues well.
"We encountered that. We had guys that had to do lifeguarding or do something (else)," he said. "That's the way it is."
With many of the skaters eligible to return next year, Patterson hopes to see another strong showing in 2017-18. The spots that will open up, however, should have other talented locals vying to fill them.
"Most of the roster will be intact and I know there are a bunch of enthusiastic kids in Grade 9 who will be available to us next year. It would be nice if we could carry on our winning ways and have a great team next year as well," he said.
Patterson thanked everyone involved in the season, including volunteers who helped shuttle players to games at strange hours in the middle of the day.
He said it'll be a memorable year, especially because of the camaraderie the players showed with one another throughout.
"They were singing songs in the dressing room before each game," he said. "They definitely took it seriously when they were on the ice, but they had a lot of fun off the ice."