Whalers prevail

Springbank Whalers
Springbank Whalers' netminder Riley Fonger jumps in on the action as teammate Maxwell Crozier ties up Vancouver T-Birds' Jacob Letwin in the championship game of the 42nd Coca-Cola Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament Sunday at Civic Arena.
— image credit: Natalia Vignola/Morning Star

They were pretty much carbon-copies of one another. Rock-solid goaltending. Smooth-skating defencemen who made strong outlet passes. Forwards who skated until they dropped.

The only difference between the Springbank Whalers of Calgary and Vancouver Thunderbirds was one shot Sunday night at Civic Arena.

Benson Young went top shelf from the slot on Vancouver goalie Jordy Engleson at 7:09 on a second-period powerplay as the Whalers won the 42nd Coca-Cola Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament.

Jack Thompson and Jonathan Tychonick drew the assists.

It was the lowest-scoring game in tournament history, and the first A final shutout since the Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs mauled the Swift Current Broncos 6-0 in 2008.

Both Engleson and Riley Fonger of the Whalers were stellar net detectives in a tight-checking affair. The Whalers tossed their sticks and gloves in the air at the buzzer and mobbed Fonger before they received the Amy Myles championship trophy.

“It was a close game with the score 1-0,” said Fonger, 12. “I made some saves that kept us in there, but also at the end, our centremen made some great faceoffs. Everyone played their role, to keep us in the game and help us win it. It was a whole team thing. It was a great tournament, by far the best one I’ve played in.”

Ari Sky of the T-Birds, who had two players back from last year’s tourney title team, was gracious in defeat.

“I think we just put all our effort into it and they just wanted it more,” said the ultra-talented Sky, who turned 13 Sunday. “We worked hard, they worked hard, but they just put more effort into it. They got one goal. Our goalie played amazing, one of his best games yet; what can you do?”

It marked the eighth time in tournament history a team from Alberta has claimed the title.

“They’re a tough team,” said Fonger, of the T-Birds. “They put up some good fights, but our team stuck in there. Everyone played their position great.”

The T-Birds, who won a Kelowna tournament and went 2-2 in a Chicago classic, will host the provincial Tier 1 championships next month. They lost to Cloverdale in recent Coastal playoff action.

The Whalers, who return two players next season, stuffed the Nanaimo Clippers 8-2, while the T-Birds held off Vernon 4-2 in Saturday’s semifinals.

Dylan Holloway supplied 2+3 for Springbank, while Jackson Zloty added 1+3. Will Cookman had both goals for Nanaimo.

Sky, Ian Walker, Alex Savanovic and Jacob Letwin scored as Vancouver defeated Vernon. Nick Cherkowski and Powell Connor replied for the Mustangs.

Vernon toppled Nanaimo 5-2 in the B event final, collecting the Alex Kuly Trophy.

CJ Storey scored twice for the Mustangs, while Joe Eggert, Dylan Sedlacek and Dawson Chase, on a coast-to-coast beauty, completed the offence in front of Jordan Wilde and Nick Higgs. Mika Burns bagged a pair of assists.

Dawson Heathcote and Cookman countered for the Clippers.

Springbank’s Geoff Sanderson, a former NHL winger, was honoured with the Ernie Kowal Memorial Award as the tournament’s Top Coach. The Spokane Chiefs took home the Dan Oxnard Memorial Award as Most Sportsmanlike Team.

Minor ice official Rick Reilly received the Rienie Holland Memorial Award for longtime service.


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