Going in, it’s plausible that many would have been pleased had a fortuneteller informed the KLP Construction Bantam A Tyees that they would lose just once during Penticton’s 2015 Bantam hockey tournament. Coming out, and having lived such a scenario, the tournament left many feeling like they missed out on what was both metaphorically and literally a golden opportunity.
Campbell River was one of twelve teams participating in a very competitive Penticton tournament that featured teams from British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington State. The tournament started out on the right foot for the Tyees when goaltender Jayce Hudak earned an impressive shutout victory against Chilliwack, and the Tyees provided more than enough offense in the 7–0 win.
Campbell River started game two versus Okanagan Hockey Academy by taking numerous penalties and falling behind 5–2 to the host team after the first period. A rather lackluster and undisciplined start, coupled with the ejection of Savey – the team’s captain – in the first period for an illegal check from behind, made the likelihood of any comeback seem improbable. To the Tyees credit, the team woke up and began to play inspired hockey, and managed to tie the game at 6-6 to earn what turned out to be a vital point in the tournament standings.
The round robin portion of the tournament concluded for Campbell River with an excellent game versus Trail. Arguably the most competitive game of the entire weekend, goals were at a premium during the first two periods with Trail and Campbell River able to lighten the lamp only once each. Campbell River suffered a significant blow late in the first period when Savey was banished for the remainder of the tournament after receiving his second boarding penalty in as many games.
Campbell River managed to get up by two at one point, though Trail was able to claw their way back to earn a 4-4 tie, the Tyees receiving another desperately required single point to qualify for a birth in the playoffs.
To earn their right to fight for gold, the Tyees need to beat the Calgary Royals in the semi-finals without their captain, and the team’s challenge doubled after Swanson was again ejected from the game early in the first period for an illegal check from behind. The Tyees came together for an impressive 7-3 victory and the opportunity to play for gold.
Standing between the Tyees and the championship medal was the Calgary Wranglers.
Their final foe, and the only team to possess a perfect 4-0 record in the tournament, proved to be the toughest opponent for Campbell River. The Tyees fell behind early when Calgary scored three goals in the first twelve minutes of the game to take an early 3-0 lead.
Defenseman Luka Kellerhals and Frank assisted on a Swanson goal late in the first to bring Campbell River to within two after the first period.
Though the Tyees out-chanced and outshot the Wranglers while at full strength, they were unable to put any more pucks past a hot Calgary goaltender.
The Tyees’ demise came in the second half of the game when the team fell into penalty trouble. Six penalties in the second and another nine in the third for a game total of 54 penalty minutes left the Tyees on its heels too often defending rather than playing where they needed to – in the offensive end.
Team discipline being a determining factor in the loss left some players feeling like they missed out on a golden opportunity.
“I really feel like we could have beaten Calgary and won the gold,” said alternate captain Cole Devlin.
“We took too many penalties and didn’t give ourselves a chance to win. Being on the penalty kill so much definitely contributed to our loss in the finals.”
Defenseman Luka Kellerhals shared similar thoughts by adding, “We could have, and should have, won the gold medal. We let them get under our skin, and we lost our focus.”
Even with that said, making it to the championships game in such a competitive tournament is no small feat, and an achievement that ten other teams would have loved to experience.