The Williams Lake Bantam Tier 2 Timberwolves proved they belonged among the best teams in their division over the holidays at the prestigious Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament.
The tournament, held at Jan. 1-5, 2020 in the Tournament Capital, was held between three arenas housing both a Randy Lindros Tier 1 Division and a Founders Tier 2 Division.
The Timberwolves, competing in the Founders Division, skated away with a respectable sixth place result in a field of 16 teams.
“Everyone was solid,” said Timberwolves head coach Owen Thomas. “We had a strong tournament all around. Our defence was really strong, all six of them played well, and we had a nice balance. Everyone stepped up when they needed to and it was all pretty positive.”
Fresh off a short holiday break, the Timberwolves didn’t show any signs of their Christmas turkey slowing them down on the ice as the team jumped out to a perfect 3-0 record in round robin play.
Wednesday, Jan. 1 the Timberwolves hammered the Spokane Junior Chiefs 7-3 in its opener, jumping out to a 4-0 lead after the first period of play.
Boston Pierce (2G), Ryan Rife (1G, 3A, 4PTS), Carter Boomer (2G, 1A, 3PTS), Declan Pocock (1G) and Jackson Altwasser (1G) lit the lamp for the T-wolves in the winning effort. Kyle Harding picked up the win between the pipes for Williams Lake.
Thursday, Jan. 2 Williams Lake continued to pour it on in the offensive end, beating the West Vancouver Thunder, 7-2.
Scoring for Williams Lake were Rife, Boomer (2G), Black Pigeon, Dustin Forster, Aiden Fulton and Ajay Virk. Darian Louie earned the win in goal for Williams Lake.
Later that same day, the Timberwolves shutout the Vernon Junior Vipers 2-0 to close out its round robin and advance them into the playoffs Friday through Sunday.
The team ran into its first setback of the tournament against the Surrey Thunder in a 5-3 loss Friday morning after the Thunder jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, before Blake Pigeon and Tristan Reid found the twine to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the second. Boomer would tie it up for Williams Lake early in the third on a power play, however, Surrey notched two unanswered goals minutes later to seal the deal.
“We could’ve won that game against Surrey,” Thomas said. “We out chanced them pretty good, but the breaks didn’t go our way.”
Undaunted, the Timberwolves rebounded early Saturday, Jan. 4 with a 5-3 win over the Campbell River Tyees with goals from Pigeon (3G), Pierce and Eli Schwaller putting them in the battle for fifth and sixth Sunday, Jan. 5.
There, despite Nolan Duff giving Williams Lake a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, it was all their opponents, the Central Alberta Selects, from there on out as the team went on to record eight unanswered goals in an 8-1 win.
Declan Pocock was named the star of the game for the Timberwolves in the team’s final outing of the tournament.
Thomas said, overall, having success early on in the tournament made the defeats that much tougher on his players.
“That’s just the way it goes,” Thomas said. “If you play well your expectations go up and it made the stakes a little higher, but they all handled it really well. As the competition got better, so did we. We seemed to get better as the tournament went on.”
This coming March, the Timberwolves are slated to play host to the BC Bantam Hockey Championships at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Thomas said KIBIHT served as a nice preview for what to expect come provincials.
“We’re just getting ready for our home tournament in a couple of weeks here, then we’ve got a good schedule of games coming up in the Okanagan, with one home set before the end of February against Vernon … then three weeks off before provincials so we’re going to try to get some exhibition games in there.”
Also at the tournament, Williams Lake’s Boomer was named to the all-star team as the best forward in the division.
The first-year bantam said he was thrilled with the recognition.
“I was really happy,” Boomer said. “And I thought I played really well at the tournament offensively. I had two, two-goal games and the rest were one-goal games … the tournament was just tons of fun. Walking out on that ice and having your name said and winning the award was pretty cool.”
He said the team’s coaching staff of Thomas, and assistant coaches Brad Thomas, Troy Weil and Frankie Robbins has been outstanding in helping out the team, and said he hopes they can continue to build on their success come provincials.
“Everything is building up for provincials,” Boomer said. “Every game, every practice now. Our team has a whole bunch of different style players and our coaches are really putting us together to make us the team we want to be.”