There was more of a silver lining than just the medals around the necks of Cariboo Cougars forward Colton Thomas and general manager Trevor Sprague after early November’s Western Canada U16 Canada Cup in Calgary.
The two members of the Cougars — Thomas is from Williams Lake — helped B.C. win silver at the four-team tournament sponsored by the Western Hockey League (WHL), and just as importantly learned lessons about what it takes to succeed at an elite level.
“I learned how hard you have to work to be a great player,” Thomas said this week after rejoining his B.C. Major Midget team at practice.
“It’s the best feeling you can have, supporting your province and you have a whole bunch of people supporting you.”
Thomas said Team B.C. bonded quickly and became friends on and off the ice. Over the coming months Thomas will see many of his former provincial teammates again in opposition colours as the Cougars continue their BCMML season.
“I made a lot of new friends there, but when game time comes there are no friends when the puck drops,” he said, before adding with a smile.
“Maybe I know some of their plays.”
As head coach of Team B.C., Sprague got to see first hand how Thomas could adjust to the next level.
He said the forward improved as the week went on and did all the coaching staff asked of him.
“Coming from Williams Lake, they’ve done a great job to get him to be here and playing as a Cariboo Cougar and that was a big deal for him,” Sprague said of Thomas.
“But there’s even a big jump when you get into a [provincial] program and play for a team B.C., there’s a whole level of talent and skill and accountability on every shift.”
Team B.C. won its first two games of the round robin, with wins over Saskatchewan and Manitoba — the latter game was Thomas’ tournament highlight — before dropping back-to-back close games to Alberta, including a 4-2 result in the final.
Sprague said the team did a good job coming together in a short amount of time and credited team captain Dante Fabbro for helping to make that happen.
“It was good to be in the final dance, that’s where you want to be,” he said.
“We turned some heads and I think we made it further than a lot of our critics thought we would.”