Midget A Tyees find gold in bronze medal win at Kamloops tourney

The Strathcona Toyota Midget A Tyees, evolving as a team over the course of an eventful season, boarded a bus this past weekend for the annual Kamloops Tier II Tournament.

Previous editions of this team have struggled here, and the Tyees were able to measure themselves against Provincial championship caliber teams again this year.

But this time things were different. The Tyees, who have lost two veteran players over the past two months, have been molded into a structured, puck possession team with balanced lines and discipline, with coaching that has stressed teamwork over individualism and structure over aggression.

This patient approach from coaches Jim McLean and Bill Humphreys was finally rewarded in the frigid interior.

Game one at memorial arena in Kamloops saw Campbell River face off against Prince George, and right off the draw there was a clear contrast between the teams.  Prince George dumped and chased, flew around the ice looking for hits, pressured the puck and drove the net.

The Tyees held the puck, retreated when they could not advance, passed D to D calmly looking for open lanes, took hits to make plays and made plays when available. They were pressured into mistakes at times, but led by stalwart defender Doug Campbell they kept the shots from the outside and despite being outshot 20-4 in the first period led 1-0.

Goaltender Antoine Minfray was spectacular in this game, and was named MVP.

After absorbing the pressure, the Tyees struck fast:  Luke Lund took a Campbell pass on a power play, off a Liam Rivett cross ice relay and scored on a quick shot.  The whole play from the far boards in the D zone to the back of the net probably took 5 seconds and likely turned the game.

Tournament standout Jaxon Ward scored an equally lightning quick goal in the second period, stealing the puck from the Prince George defence and chipping the goalie short side.

Lund finished the scoring from a hustling Ethan Mainprize after Campbell threw a punctuating open ice hit to shut Prince George down:  3-2 Tyees.

Game two featured Vernon, a team every bit as aggressive and more talented than the Tyees’ first opponent.

Dominik Bellefleur once again gave his team superb goaltending while Seth Parker moved up to play centre and was brilliant, scoring once and dominating possession on his shifts.  Cole Devlin assisted on Parker’s goal and also had a strong game.  MVP Lund went end to end through Vernon’s defence to once again open the scoring and was on the ice again for the winner.

Captain Owen Boyd, Lund and sniper Jake Hartley were thrown together in the final minute of a 2-2 game and Boyd produced the dramatic winner with .3 seconds on the clock!

Game three was a tamer affair, as private hockey academy OHA was already eliminated and Campbell River assured of first place in their division.

The Tyees settled for a 1-1 draw, with the only goal coming from Parker, tipping in a Doug Campbell blast after the Tyees trailed for two periods.  Rookie Clinton Nelson was MVP, growing by bounds through the tournament defensively, adding an assist on the winning goal in game 2.

The Tyees’ semi-final, against eventual gold medal winners Williams Lake, a strong entry to last year’s provincials, was disappointing.  Ward and Lund scored, and Campbell was MVP, but the big ice of the 7500 seat Sandman Center gave the fast high pressure, bench shortening interior squad an advantage that the Tyees could not handle on that day.

Rookie Bryce Narhi had two assists capping an excellent tournament, and Devlin added another.

Campbell River was third, in the end.  But they showed cohesion, respect for their system and gelled as a team.  And that’s gold.