It’s inspiring for former semi-professional hockey player Tyrel Lucas to wrap his head around just how talented the Williams Lake Atom Development Timberwolves are.
Lucas, who is the head coach of the nine- and 10-year-old upstarts, has been blown away at the team’s success to date — a 22-1-1 record heading into the holiday break.
The team has racked up gold medals at tournaments in Vernon and Salmon Arm, and skated away with a silver medal from a tough tournament in Kamloops. They’ve also been dominant in their regular season league play versus Prince George, 100 Mile House and Quesnel.
“We’ve had some pretty good teams here in the past, but it’s pretty cool to watch these kids and to see how they’re able to compete against tier one top teams,” said Lucas, who is joined by assistant coaches Parnell Pinette, Brock Dikur and Owen Thomas on the coaching staff.
“I think the individual skill development has been there right from the start of hockey for these kids, and the biggest thing is they’ve totally bought in with this age group. The individual skill-sets are extremely high and that’s just due to the kids wanting it, and also the parents buying in to get these kids the opportunity to do it, and providing that for them. We’ve just got the right makeup on our team right now.”
Backstopping the team between the pipes are Jaxson Dikur and Cole Chapman — just one area the team is strong, Lucas said.
“On defence, positionally, our shutdown has been crazy,” he said. “They take their job pretty seriously.
“Then we’ve got some forwards that have just been so clutch in scoring, and have been getting big goals all year and have been putting the puck in the net. It’s just a combination of everything with this team.”
Despite picking up a silver at the Kamloops tournament, Lucas said it was the team’s best competition so far all season.
“We beat Richmond, Port Coquitlam, Kelowna and Kamloops, then we ended up playing Cloverdale in the finals and that was our first loss of the season but we were so happy to win a silver there,” Lucas said. “Competition-wise it was unbelievable.”
Asked how his players’ skill-sets compare to his when he was learning the game at a young age, Lucas laughed.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “You try not to think about it, and to just keep pushing them to reach their potential and that’s what we’ve been trying to do every game — just try to get better and better. These kids have set a new bar, and we try to keep the same intensity and to play at that bar every time we go out, but it’s insane how hard they can shoot, and how well they can pass and skate at this age.”
Another aspect of the team’s success has been the bond the players have formed from an early age.
“It’s a very good group of kids, and parents, and they have totally bought in 100 per cent.”
The team has a few more league games before Christmas, and is then preparing to host its home tournament in Williams Lake in January. After that they’ll head to tournaments in Chilliwack and in Osooyos.
Lucas, meanwhile, thinks the sky is the limit for his players, regardless of what they decide to pursue in hockey, or in life, in general.
“As a coach I just want what’s best for them,” he said. “Team-wise they are such good kids, they work extremely hard and they listen very, very well. It’s unheard of for kids this age and I think that’s why they’re so successful. For nine and 10 year olds to be able to do that is unbelievable and whether they end up being hockey players or doctors, or whatever, they’re on the right track, for sure.
“Whether it’s hockey or life they’re going to be successful and it’s awesome to see.”
The team’s roster is as follows: Cole Chapman, Kendon MacKinnon, Linden Pinette, Neen Suapa, Blake Lambe, Andrew Lindsay, Dawson Rowse, Trace Reid, Madden Benvin, Rhys Marchand, Asher Lucas, Lorne Moe, Reid Coombes, Lane Carson, Colton Gerrior, Nathan Johnson and Jaxson Dikur.