Submitted by Michael Tollis, coach of the Bantam Bruins
After a long hiatus from hosting a Bantam hockey tournament in Grand Forks, a group of volunteers and determined parents came together to put on a competitive and enjoyable weekend at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. The Kelowna Rockets and the Kelowna Storm traveled to town and league rivals from Trail came over the Paulson to round out the four-team tournament.
The Bruins were in tough for the opening game on Friday night, when they battled the Kelowna Storm. “Smiling” Aiden Burch opened the scoring followed by three more tallies from Captain Zak Thomas, Samuel “The Show” Sjoden and Josh “the Giant” Bryant. The game looked in-hand, up 4-0 going into the third, when Kelowna stormed back to tie the game at four, which is how it ended.
Feeling like game one slipped away, the Bruins came back Saturday morning determined to play a full game against the Kelowna Rockets. The Bruins came out firing with a goal from “Big Goal” Cole Savitskoff and a five-point outing, including four assists, from “Magic” Marcus Carney. Brendan “Bumblebee” Vanderlee got his first goal of the year off a beauty deflection in front and an impressive defensive display earned Wyatt “Riot” Cairns player of the game honours for game two, which the Bruins won handily 8-2.
The last game of the round robin was against the Trail Smokies. The game was close for two periods with Dalien “D” Becher and William “The Wall” Kelly making save after save against the Trail attack. The Bruins started to turn the tide in the third period, with Jack Jones scoring a “Jack Trick,” an even strength goal, a powerplay goal, and a short-handed goal. Corbin “Soft Hands” Savitskoff grinded out his best game of the tournament was named player of the game. The Bruins won 7-3 and secured first place, setting a date with the Rockets bright and early Sunday morning.
Nothing says Dec. 1 quite like a skiff of snow and a 7 a.m. arrival at the arena. The Bruins came ready to play while bleary-eyed parents and coaches looked on. Defensive specialists and veteran duo Riley “Ry-Guy” Menzies and Fearless Leader Gabby Campbell were impenetrable on the back end, and Amelia “Wheels” Driedger gave it everything she had all over the ice. “Fast Thinkin’” Lincoln Faulkner scored his first of the tournament, stealing the puck from an unsuspecting defenseman and taking it on a breakaway goal in the third, which turned out to be the game winner. “Bee” Vanderlee starred again, in net this time, and took the player of the game for the semi-finals, which sent the Rockets soaring back to Kelowna in a 6-3 loss.
The Storm blew past Trail in the other semi-final which set up a championship game that saw the same two teams as the opener. The game started out close, chances at both ends and battles all over the ice. The game was heating up but the Bruins were keeping their cool. Michael “The Motorcycle” Driedger, was the sole representative of the Driedgers with his sister “Wheels” out with an injury, and he definitely played hard enough for two people. He scored the opening goal with a rocket from the blueline, even though he had a partial breakaway, and added a second snipe in the second period. Morgan “Poppa Bear” Cairns also played his best game of the tournament, though only got on the scoresheet with a cross-checking penalty.
The Bruins were in familiar territory against the Storm, up 4-0 heading into the third, but this time, there was no slowing down. Team defence and a never-give-up attitude calmed the Storm in the third, and Jack Jones iced it with the goal of the tournament, a between the legs breakaway goal that got the whole crowd to their feet, and made the jaws of the Border Bruin players in attendance drop to the floor. The Bruins went on to take the game 5-0, winning the home tournament championship medals.
On behalf of the team, coaches Ken Abetkoff, Terrance McDonnell, and Mike Tollis wish to thank Tammy Cathcart and Alanna McNabb for their awesome coordination of the tournament, all the parents and volunteers who put the time in to make the tournament a success and all the scorekeepers, officials, arena staff and fans that supported the weekend – it couldn’t have happened without you.