What makes a team successful? The Atom B Campbell River Tyees know just that.
Success is three very simple things, and these three things encompass a philosophy they’ve played by all season. “Tonight we are going to (1.) work as hard as we possibly can, (2.) we will be good supportive teammates, and (3.) we will have fun,” said Coach Laird Ruehlen during his pre-game pep talk before game one last Friday night at Rod Brind’Amour Area.
The team sat quietly, players individually focused, thinking of the three things, and the game ahead. The Tyees were hosts of their annual three day Campbell River Minor Hockey Tournament, with visiting teams Kerry Park Islanders, Sannich Braves, and Victoria Raquet Club. There would be four games each before the top two teams played for the right to call themselves Tournament Champions.
The players knew game one would be a challenge. The Victoria Raquet Club play a tough and determined style. Having lost to this team the weekend previous, Campbell River knew they would need a more consistent, hard fought effort.
The Tyees scored first, at 13:42 of period one, with a wicked wrist shot from Mike Shields Brown, but two minutes later Victoria tied it up. Brandon Vandervalk’s gritty play put the Tyees back on top with less than two minutes remaining in the first, but yet again Victoria came right back to tie the game. Ultimately, penalties would cost Victoria in this game, and with all three lines of the Tyees producing goals, Victoria fell 6-2.
The next morning, the Tyees battled the Saanich Braves. The Braves came out hard from the drop of the first puck to pressure the Tyees early, but good defensive play in their own end allowed Campbell River to weather an early storm.
The Tyees scored first at 11:24 of the first as centre Jacob Thomas potted the first of what would be an eventual hat trick. His line mate Riory Young scored four times, including the eventual game winner. This back and forth, high scoring seesaw affair, ended 8-6 for Campbell River.
After the game, the dressing room was electric, full of a certain positive energy a team would only feel when confidence builds among all the players. The Tyees had back-to-back wins.
The next two games, though hard fought, were controlled by Campbell River.
Each team member worked incredibly hard, and their smiles were contagious.
“We started to notice the lines talking to one another between whistles, planning strategies before face-off, and trying plays they designed themselves. It was fun to watch,” said both assistant coaches Blair Billard and Jamie Willis after the third game.
With four wins in a row, and first place overall, the Atom B Tyees were off to the championship game.
It ended up being a rematch against Victoria Raquet Club.
A clear rivalry had begun to develop, with coaches and players alike discussing strategies as to how they would handle players of the opposing team.
Predictably, the game started rough, as Victoria sent a message this game would be a battle.
For most of the first period it was back and forth, with five penalties being issued.
Wyatt Huffman opened the scoring for the Tyees with 5:51 remaining in the first. The defensive style of each team kept shots to a minimum, and scoring chances low, but Tyee Jacob Thomas scored at 14:49 of the second, burying a rebound from a shot by Riory Young.
Young scored the third goal at 4:29 in the second frame to give the Tyees a comfortable 3-0 lead. Not going away quietly, the tenacity of Raquet Club showed with 30 seconds left in the second as they scored to make it 3-1 heading into the final frame.
At 17:01 in the third, Victoria scored to come within one, but the Campbell River defence, and stellar goal tending by Andrew Brabender proved too much.
With time winding down, the Tyees held on to take the victory.