Marcus Steen made a good point. Although the pee wee Tier 1 Cowichan Valley Capitals had just lost the battle for third-place at the provincial championships in Vancouver, the young hockey player pointed out to his teammates that, of all the pee wee teams in the province, they were the fourth-best.
"Those were encouraging words from Marcus, for sure," his coach, Brett Hopwo, said. "It put it all into perspective. It was pretty mature for him."
The pee wee and bantam Tier 1 teams from the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association placed fourth at their respective provincial tournaments – remarkable results considering how many teams there are in B.C. The pee wee Caps finished with three wins and three losses, playing competitive hockey against every team in the tournament, with their best game coming in a 6-5 loss to a surprising Cranbrook team, which would go on to place second.
Cowichan opened the tourney with a 5-4 victory over Prince George, getting goals from Steen, Corson Hopwo, Cody Shepheard, Luc Wilson and Jojo Tanaka-Campbell. The second game was a 6-2 setback against Burnaby Winter Club, with Shepheard and Kahlil Fontana providing the offence.
The Capitals got back in the win column in their third game, an 8-6 win over Vancouver. Shepheard led the way with five goals, while Hopwo, Wilson and Isaac Leik also scored, and Fontana had four assists. Cowichan edged Kelowna 5-4 next, thanks to two goals apiece from Hopwo and Wilson and one from Tanaka-Campbell.
The game against Cranbrook gave Cowichan a chance to make the gold-medal game, and they battled for it, getting goals from Fontana, Steen, Wilson, Owen Easton and Nathan Goliath in the 6-5 defeat. The Capitals’ final game turned out to be for third place, but the exhausted team ended up on the wrong side of a 9-0 final score against Seafair.
The Capitals got solid goaltending all year, and the provincial tournament was no different. Sacha Rouselle’s week included a 39-save outing against Vancouver, while Will Gurski’s high point was a 50-save performance against Seafair.
"In the whole tournament, Will was our most consistent performer," coach Hopwo said.
The bantam Capitals finished their tournament in Prince George with two wins, two losses and a tie, and were the only team to take a point away from the champions, North Shore Winter Club.
"We knew that if the kids looked after themselves, went in with the right mindset and played 60 minutes each game we would be able to compete with these teams," head coach Derek Topping said. "Even in the games we lost we had our chances to turn the game around in our favour but were unable to capitalize on our chances early on."
The Capitals were shut out 6-0 by Kamloops in their first game, but came back to beat Prince George 5-0 later the same day. Ben Berard scored twice against Prince George, while Dawson Frank, Kei Lowes and Trey Watson had singles.
The Caps lost 5-1 to Burnaby Winter Club, with Kyle Topping scoring the lone goal. They then defeated Kelowna 6-4 on two goals from Berard and one each from Topping, Watson, Braydon Nelson and Dylan Hartl. Finally, they wrapped things up by tying NSWC 1-1 on a goal by Topping.
Other players who performed well at the tournament were Brad Bagnall, Griffin Webb, Samson Maclean, and goalies Chris Akerman, who shut out Prince George, and Derek Krall, who had great games against BWC and NSWC. Coach Topping expressed specific gratitude to bus drivers Neville Townsend and Doug Callsen, and to the parents, especially Staci Nelson and Gina Easton, who prepared all team meals.