The Midget Timberwolves couldn’t have written a more suspense-filled ending than the one they provided for friends and family Sunday morning on their way to a gold medal victory.
The scene was the Midget T-Wolves Tier II home tournament. The setting, the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
After three games beginning Friday night, the team was in a battle for first place against the Prince George Cougars Sunday morning.
Both were evenly matched teams, trading goals back and forth throughout the match to end the third period in a 3-3 tie.
A late third period penalty, however, saw tensions rise as the T-Wolves headed into the five-minute, four on four overtime period on a penalty kill.
After several close calls, and some stellar goaltending by Ryan Balbirnie who kept the team in the game, the two remained locked in a tie, forcing the game to a shootout to determine the tournament victor.
The crowd held their breath each time a player took a run on the net, followed by a collective sigh when Balbirnie shut down his challengers until finally, in the sixth round, first year midget Jace Myers became a team hero, beating the Prince George goalie to put it in the net. Cheers from fans drowned the arena as the team spilled off the bench.
“A shootout is great when you win, but it’s a terrible way to lose,” head coach Owen Thomas said after the win, in which Balbirnie was named player of the game.
Thomas said the team “did well” throughout the tournament, securing a spot in the finals after a tie against Fort St. John, then a 4-1 win over Smithers followed by a 3-2 victory over Kitimat, despite tough starts in all the games.
“That’s been our Achilles’s heel this weekend – our slow starts.”
Thomas said the T-Wolves are a strong team this year with provincial championships in their sights.
“That’s the boys’ goal, to qualify for provincials and then win it.”
Assistant coach Frankie Robbins, who took a moment to pace behind the player’s bench to escape the pressure during the shootout, said he was very proud of the boys’win.
“It’s awesome — all of the hard work we put in, and then to win gold. It lets us all know that we are doing something right and we’re all a team,” Robbins said.
The team will enjoy a break from games until after the New Year.