The Williams Lake Bantam Timberwolves will be looking to the community for support beginning Sunday when they host the BC Hockey Bantam Tier 2 Championships.
Players and coaching staff are inviting residents to come cheer the team on March 15-18 at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex when they host the Peninsula Eagles, the South Delta Storm, the Greater Trail Smoke Eaters, the Kelowna Rockets and the Ridge Meadows Rustlers.
The tournament format will feature a five-game round robin, followed by a championship on 7:30 p.m. March 18.
T-wolves players Jackson Altwasser, Ryan Rife, Carter Boomer and captain Boston Pierce said they’ll be pulling out all the stops to have a provincial championship banner hoisted to the rafters at the CMRC.
And having the opportunity to play at home is something all the players and coaches are looking forward to.
“I think it’s a pretty good opportunity,” Altwasser said. “I’ve never been to a provincials, so I’m pretty excited about it.”
Rife said he thinks the team has a legitimate shot at placing well in the tournament.
“This is the best team I’ve ever played on,” Rife said. “We’re just playing as a complete team and having more fun, and winning because of it.”
Boomer said one of the team’s main strengths lies off the ice as they all get along well and spend a lot of time together.
“On the ice we all communicate strongly and we all understand each other and know each other’s different playstyles,” he said. “Off the ice we all go to school together, we all hang out together. It’s pretty much just hanging out with your best friends and playing hockey together.”
Pierce noted he’s seen the team come a long way since the beginning of the season in terms of improvement on the ice.
“With a lot of new players (moving up to the bantam division) this year we had to rebuild and retain connecting with each other and I feel like we’re done that and created new bonds with each other,” Pierce said. “As long as we put in our best we know that’s a win for us.”
For roughly three quarters of the players on the team, this will be their first crack at a BC Hockey provincial championship in their minor hockey careers.
All agreed having fun, and having fan support cheering them on in the stands, will be key.
“When we have fun we play better together,” Rife said.
Timberwolves head coach Owen Thomas, who is joined by assistant coaches Troy Weil, Brad Thomas and Frankie Robbins to round out the coaching staff, said the team will need to muster up some strong games early on as they have been in limbo since the end of their Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association (OMAHA) season early February.
“We would have liked to have played some games, but we’ve simulates games and just tried to keep the compete level up,” he said. “Other than that I think our overall team work ethic is our strong point. We have solid goaltending — two very capable goalies — and we’ve seen a couple of the teams this season and have wins against them.”
Weil said he thinks the team is well positioned to have a strong showing at provincials.
“We have a nice balance of speed, power, strength — we’ve got 20 players pulling on the rope,” he said.
Thomas added every player will need to step up to raise their game.
“There won’t be any weak teams, that’s for sure,” he said.
“And it could be a real advantage for us playing at home if we make sure we’re rested and sleeping in our own beds, eating our own meals and playing in our own rink. Plus, we’ll have the fans.”
Both said they’re having a lot of fun coaching the team this season, and are looking forward to the opportunity to compete at provincials.
“They’re just a nice bunch of kids and I’ve enjoyed coaching with Owen,” Weil said.
Pierce, meanwhile, thanked all off the teams coaches for their time, along with all the volunteers, parents and sponsors for their help this season. The team also thanked the provincial organizing committee for putting together the tournament.
Everyone also would like to invite residents to come out to attend the games.
On Sunday, March 15, Williams Lake plays its opener at 10:30 a.m. versus South Delta. After the opening ceremonies at 7:45 p.m., the Timberwolves will take to the ice versus Kelowna.
On Monday, Williams Lake faces Greater Trail at 7 p.m., followed by a date with Peninsula on Tuesday with a 7:15 p.m. puck drop.
On the final day of the round robin Wednesday, the T-wolves take on Ridget Meadows at 1:30 p.m., with the championship to follow, based on round robin results, that evening at 7:30 p.m. in rink one at the CMRC.