Naturally, the peewee B Cowichan Thunder’s quest for provincial gold ended with a clash against the Peninsula Warriors.
The Thunder had defeated the Warriors in a tournament final in May, then again in the final of the Island championships at the end of June — both games being decided by a single goal — so it was only fitting that the rivals should square off once again for the provincial banner, this time in Delta.
A 5-2 lead helped the Thunder set the tone in the first period, and the Cowichan coaches were able to keep the team calm, even during a six-minute five-on-three penalty kill in the third period. When the final buzzer sounded, the Thunder held a 9-4 advantage and capped off their perfect 30-0 season with the provincial title.
“We were down a couple times in provincials, and the players battled back each time to get the wins needed to make the gold game,” Cowichan head coach Chris Claxton said. “The gold game was textbook. Other than penalties, the players did what we worked on for 29 games: motion offence, pick-and-rolls, and a solid powerplay.
“We never got too high or low all season and wanted to peak at the last game, and that’s what we did. All season we just worked on the simple things: passing, catching, shooting and loose balls.”
Cowichan romped through pool play with wins over the Comox Valley Wild, Coquitlam Adanacs B2, Delta Islanders, and Coquitlam Adanacs B1.
The Thunder rolled out to a 4-3 first-period lead over Comox, but the Wild had a strong second period to make it 6-5 before Cowichan surged ahead in the third to prevail 10-5.
In the next game, Coquitlam got off to a strong start, and the Thunder found themselves trailing for only the second time this season, down 4-2 at the end of the first. Both teams scored once in the second, but Cowichan’s Nate Akhurst exploded for five goals in the third, leading his team to a 9-7 victory.
The host Islanders tried to slow the Thunder with brute force, but Cowichan’s hard work and skill was too much for the tournament hosts, and Cowichan dominated the game 18-2.
Finally, Cowichan cruised past the other Coquitlam team 8-3 to remain unbeaten in pool play.
Another Island team stood between Cowichan and the provincial final, as the Thunder faced the Juan de Fuca Whalers in the crossover semifinal. Cowichan goalie Tyson Atkinson was nearly unbeatable, while his teammates played like a well-oiled machine, scoring seven times. Lucas Daniels scored the team’s first backhand goal, dedicating the feat to injured teammate Reid Nahirnick.
At the end of the tournament, Akhurst was named peewee B provincials MVP and picked as an all-star. The Warrior Fair Play Award went to Dane Stewart.
Other players on the team were Atkinson, Daniels, Nahirnick, Case Claxton, Carter Blace, Ashton Slydell, Lucas Daniels, Jack Isherwood, Jace Bennefield, Parker Harvey, Brayden Rodgers, Nolan Ganter, Parker Lawrence, Milo McDonald, Molly Shea and Jackson Sampare. Coaches were Chris Claxton, Drayson Akhurst, Chris Blace, Jaymee Shea and Daryl Rodgers.
Along with winning the provincial banner and going undefeated, the Cowichan peewees won their Island league and playoff championships.
“The team came together this season with each and every player adding to the team’s success,” manager Marnie Nicklin said. “These kids are 11 and 12 years old but, with confidence in themselves, each other and their coaches, they ended the season undefeated with a record of 30-0.
“They also ended the season with one of the league’s lowest total penalty minutes and with some of the calmest coaches in the sport of lacrosse. There are a lot of seasons to come for this team and they hope to have a lot more championships under the belt in the years to come.”