The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Chase Heat president Scott Koch likes to refer to it as the Cariboo gold rush.
That’s after his team has been inundated with Williams Lake hockey talent over the years, brought to a pinnacle this season in the team’s most successful campaign in its four-year existence.
This year’s squad was captained by Williams Lake forward Kaleb Boyle, who also joined local players, goaltender Michael Byer and forward Chad Wilde, in helping the team to 25 wins, 19 losses, two ties and six overtime losses during the 2014/15 season. The record put the team in second place in the Doug Birks Division, where they eventually fell to the 100 Mile House Wranglers in the divisional playoff semifinals to close out the year.
“I used to joke it was the Cariboo gold rush from Williams Lake to Chase,” Koch said.
The first of the lakecity contingent to join the Heat was McKenzie Guardiero, who was followed by brothers Drew and Chad Wilde, then Kaleb Carpenter, Boyle and Byer.
“All the Williams Lake boys have been just wonderful kids from great folks,” Koch said. “It’s an interesting phenomenon. They clearly come from good families. The Williams Lake contingent has come down to home games quite a bit and they’re real solid citizens supporting their boys.”
Of those players, just Chad is eligible to return next season.
During this year’s regular season Boyle set a KIJHL league record for scoring the most power play goals in a career with 47 in 146 games played.
Byer, also known as ‘Stretch’ by his teammates, concluded the 2014/15 campaign with 17 wins, 15 losses and one tie, with a 3.33 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.
At the team’s award banquet on Saturday, March 7, both Boyle and Byer brought home hardware.
Boyle was presented the most valuable player, the fan favourite and the game star award. Byer also won the game star award.
“They’ll be missed,” Koch said. “Our first year we won five games, our second year we won 11 games, then just kept improving to where they are now. Every year we build to be better and better.”