The 13th and 14th meetings of the season between the peewee A2 Cowichan Valley Thunder and Victoria-Esquimalt Eagles were by far the biggest.
The Thunder and Eagles met at Kerry Park Arena on Saturday in the first two games of the Vancouver Island championship. Although it was a best-of-three series, the third game, which had been scheduled for Sunday, wasn’t necessary as the Thunder swept the first two contests. It was a true triumph for Cowichan who earned their ninth and tenth victories over Vic-Esquimalt.
"We have a pretty amazing little team," coach Gord Macdonald said. "We only had 24 or 25 kids try out; that was the smallest number of kids for any association in the A2 division." In the first game, the Thunder battled back to tie the score in the last minute of regulation and win the game in overtime. Cowichan trailed 8-7 with less than a minute to play, but pulled goalie Jackson Owen for the extra attacker, and Parker Klippenstein was able to score the tying goal with 36 seconds left on the clock. That set up a 10-minute overtime. Josh Macdonald put the Thunder ahead early on, but the Eagles were able to pull even.
Finally, captain Michael Daniels put Cowichan ahead for good at 10-9 when he scored with 1:47 remaining.
Daniels finished the game with three goals and one assist, while Klippenstein had two goals and two assists, and Dawson Elzinga scored twice and set up four goals. Joshua Wong had a goal and two assists, Keegan Martin had a goal and one assist, and Josh Macdonald scored once. Walker Smith, Luke Ellison and Jacob McCluskey each had one helper.
The teams had a couple of hours to recover before they hit the floor again for the second game. The scoring went back and forth, but the Thunder never trailed, and secured the Island banner with an 8-5 win.
It is often said that a team’s most important penalty killer is the goalie, and that proved true in the second game on Saturday when Owen stood on his head
down the stretch as his teammates’ exuberance led to a bunch of penalties.
"We played most of the third period with two guys in the penalty box," Macdonald said. "The guys were just getting so excited, so wound up. The whole year it’s been like that. They play with so much effort and heart, they end up with quite a few penalties. When they’re going 100 per cent,
sometimes their sticks slip up a shoulder pad."
Daniels scored another hat trick and added one assist, while Dawson Sears had two goals and a helper, and Elzinga had a goal and two assists. Klippenstein and Josh Macdonald potted singles, while Dominic Adelborg had two assists, and Wong, McCluskey, Martin and Kyler Smith had one assist apiece.
The Thunder will head to the provincial championships on July 9-13 in Maple Ridge, where they will compete for the B.C. title with five teams from the Mainland and two from the Interior. "There are two teams in [provincials] who we’ve beaten at tournaments by quite a bit, and they finished one-two in the Mainland league," Macdonald pointed out. "We’re hoping to win the gold, for sure. We have a really good chance of doing well."
The team is made up of half first-year, half second-year players, while most A2 teams are primarily second-year players. The veterans are relied on when games get tight.
"We really count on all eight of our second-year players, especially in the last five to 10 minutes of a close game," Macdonald said.
All season long, the coaches have been aware that this is a special bunch.
"Right from the start, we thought it was an amazing team," Macdonald said. "It’s a really good group of kids."