The Windsor Plywood Bantam C Ravens travelled to Burnaby for the 2012 BC Provincial Championships July 26 to 29 and brought home the gold medal.
It was refreshing to start the provincial round-robin games against a brand-new opponent…Langley. The Ravens began the Friday morning game a bit tentative as this was the first time most players were on a true hardwood floor instead of concrete. Some preferred the better traction/adhesion while others lamented the way the ball changed direction as it hit a seam or edge.
Captain Nolan Morrison led the way with a strong effort and was quickly supported by assistant captains Nolan Fair, Zach Lontayao and the entire team. Gavin Hope picked the perfect time to score his first goal of the season with a wicked shot that the goalie had no chance to save. Strong defensive efforts by Kodie Borton, Andy Hunt, Nick Kool and David Lavigne proved that the Ravens were not to be denied as they opened the round robin games with a 9-2 victory. Game MVP as selected by opposing coaches was Nolan Fair.
The buzz in the concourse concerning the Ravens’ afternoon opponent, Burnaby, was that they had only lost a couple of games all season.
Head coach Todd Fair, along with assistant coaches Ken Doney and Jeff Lontayao, kept the players’ minds on task using pre-game visualization routines.
“Focus on what you want to accomplish in this game. Remember what got you here. See your efforts contributing to the teams’ succes,” the layers were told.
Those phrases and several variations were emphasized in a low key but very effective manner. The Ravens put their good intentions into actions on the floor; supporting the ball and finding ways to help teammates succeed whether it was by setting a pick at the right time or being first on a loose ball. Reilly Doney, Cole Gent and Max Nelson led the team defence. Burnaby didn’t stand a chance against this team effort.
Final score was 9-3 for the Ravens with Ross Rickman earning Game MVP award for his hard work and two goals in this game.
Saturday morning had the Ravens completing round-robin play against Kelowna.
Since the division was broken into two pools of four teams each, winning two of the three round robin games guaranteed the Ravens a berth in the semi-finals.
Unlike Olympic badminton players, the Ravens wanted to win their round robin game to finish first in their pool and play the second place team from the other pool.
The local scouts didn’t know much about Kelowna other than they were almost a “throw-together” team that seemed to be on a roll. They had only allowed one goal in their first two games so the Ravens knew they would be facing a strong goalie and great defensive team.
This game was one that exemplified good ol’ fashioned hard-work and commitment to team. Both teams were tenacious in their defending. Kelowna had a couple of larger battleship-size players but the Ravens’ destroyers – Ian Hall, Connor Ludvigson, Jasper Osterhout-Code, Riley Wellman and others – were completely unfazed as they controlled their opponent into the boards and removed the ball from their basket.
If the attacker did get his stick free, goalie Will McLean was ready to make the first and even second saves. The final score was 7-5 for the Ravens as they went undefeated to earn first place in their pool to set up a semi-final game against Peninsula later Saturday night. McLean received Game MVP honours for his efforts in net.
During the tournament player and team recognition ceremonies at the end of the round robin, Morrison was selected as a division all-star and Wellman received a Fair Play award.
If the earlier game against Kelowna was a hard-fought game for the purists who love the sport, boxing fans may think of Ali against Foreman, the Saturday night semi-final game was just a battle along the lines of Ali versus Frazier.
The Ravens had beaten Peninsula two weeks earlier while winning the Vancouver Island regular season banner and it was easy to see that did not sit well with Peninsula.
The game started with Peninsula taking an early lead and extending it to 2-0. The Ravens seemed to draw energy from the cheering from their supporters as they came back and took the lead into the third period.
At this point, Peninsula seemed to focus more on playing the man regardless of where the ball was or what the rule book said. One potentially late double-team hit near the Ravens bench seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The best response to something like that is to score goals on the power play but since none were forthcoming, the Ravens settled for running the clock out.
Two sets of coincidental penalties provided even more open space on the floor. Emotions were truly running high as the Ravens punched their ticket to the gold medal game, beating Peninsula by a final score of 6-4. Fair received his second Game MVP award of the tournament.
Some may call it the fickle finger of fate or the good karma of sports but there were mysterious forces guiding events at this tournament as Kelowna beat Cranbrook 11-8 in their semi-final game to setup a rematch against the Ravens for all the marbles.
Both teams seemed a little tense for the early Sunday morning game as one may expect. Kelowna tried to use their size to wear down the Ravens but this flock hangs together like no other. They kept running the floor, forcing Kelowna to go back and play defence which took a toll on the Okanagan team.
As in the first game, spirited but clean play was the order of the day as each side strove to gain an advantage. The Ravens were trailing 4-5 with about six minutes left in the third period when the complexion of the game changed. They had worked the ball to the heart of “the house” and Liam Rivett was able to put the biscuit in the basket behind the Kelowna goalie for the tying goal.
Unfortunately, the goalie suffered a serious hip injury on the play. After several minutes of assessment from training staff, he required assistance from the floor. It was at this time that the Kelowna coaches and players personified and exemplified the true meaning of team spirit. As they huddled to discuss their options, a young man who had scored three of their five goals in this game and been an offensive threat in both games, offered to take over for the injured player.
Following an extended time-out to allow for the equipment swap and a brief warm-up, play resumed. The Ravens immediately tested the new goalie only to find him as quick as his predecessor and with good ball-handling skills.
Kelowna was feeding off of this positive energy and launched several counter-attacks. The Ravens withstood these as McLean made a few key saves to keep the score tied. After one flurry in the Raven zone, Lontayao got the ball and spotted Fair breaking down the floor. He lobbed a pass over the Kelowna defenders that Fair ran under and caught in full stride. He went in on goal, seemingly determined to put this one in…and he did.
Pandemonium broke out at the Ravens bench but they couldn’t celebrate with a team fly-by as Kelowna immediately lined up for a face-off. Kelowna kept trying to score a game-tying goal but they were thwarted by the Ravens team defence. As the buzzer went, the final score was 6-5 for the 2012 Bantam C gold medal winners…the Windsor Plywood Ravens.
Prior to the awarding of the trophy and championship banner, Fair was informed that he completed a rare Game MVP hat-trick and earned Tournament Divisional MVP honours as well. Congratulations to all of the Raven players including those who were injured or otherwise unable to attend the provincials: Owen Boyd, Dawson Brown, Thomas Dunn, Daniel Gilson, Brad Kennedy and Justin Kennelly. Each of them had many contributions to the team’s successes this season.