The 2016-17 Campbell River Atom Hurricanes are league champions.
After going a remarkable 11-0-1 in regular season play this year, the Hurricanes headed down Island to Lake Cowichan last weekend for playoffs with a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
They opened the tournament with a Saturday game against the fourth-seeded Peninsula Eagles in the semi-finals, where the Hurricanes’ explosive offence and solid defence shone.
Emma Deagle found the back of the net five times in the semi-final, her linemate Kaylie Riecker added another four, Mackinley Whalen had a hattrick of her own and Dexter Manrique had a pair. Kai Hyatt and Akira Isaac added singles as the Hurricanes took the decisive 16-4 victory over the Eagles to move on to the league finals the following day.
They were in tough that day, as the Saanich Braves were a much stiffer opponent and seemed to want the championship banner as much as the ‘Canes.
The Campbell River squad lit the lamp first, however, when defenceman Madison Batch made a great play at the Saanich blue line, finding Whalen in the high slot who ripped a low, hard shot past the Saanich goaltender, who couldn’t see it coming thanks to a screen by forward Kelsey Grothen.
Saanich would even the score late in the first period, however, and the two teams would battle at 1-1 for much of the rest of the game, largely thanks to defencemen Issac, Batch, Shanna Speck and Elizabeth Betteman doing a tremendous job of limiting their opponents’ chances and goaltender McKenna Harris, who made a number of spectacular saves when the speedy Braves forwards managed to elude the defence, including coming up huge on several Saanich breakaways.
Then, late in the third period, Grothen managed to keep the puck in at the Saanich blueline during a Braves clearing attempt. Hyatt ended up with the puck on her stick behind the net before finding Whalen out front with a beautiful pass. Whalen one-timed it home to give the ‘Canes the lead with only 2:57 remaining on the clock.
After the ensuing face-off at centre ice, the ‘Canes made their way into their opponents’ end once again, where Rieker found Deagle in the slot for a quick shot which deflected off a Saanich player straight to Manrique, who blasted it home to go up 3-1.
The Braves turned up the intensity even more at that point, and managed to pull within one goal before the final buzzer, but Campbell River held on for the huge championship win.
The girls will now end their year at the 20th Annual Ice Classic Female Hockey Tournament March 24-26 in Richmond, but whatever happens there, they are already champions.