They affectionately called him ‘Rooster’ and Austin Roest’s hat trick has the Watkin Motors Mustangs on a winning perch in the 46th annual Coca-Cola Classic Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament.
Roest and the Mustangs held off the Chilliwack Bruins 4-3 in a thrilling Thursday morning tilt at the Vernon Civic Arena before a number of sign-waving Vernon elementary school children.
The California Wave grounded the Cochrane Rockies of Alberta 4-1 in the second game of the eight-team extravaganza.
Roest, a Grade 7 Kidston student who just turned 13, beat Chilliwack goalie Landon Fraser with a one-timer, in tight, after a gorgeous saucer pass from the right corner by d-man Tyler Burke, who performed some ballet before delivering the feed. The snipe came with 4:54 to play and Nolan Clarke of the Bruins in the penalty box after being assessed four minutes for spearing and an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.
“I try and go one-time when I get the chance,” said Roest, who led the Mustangs with 60 assists and an eye-popping 121-plus rating in the regular season. “We work hard and play as a team and try and get pucks on net as much as possible.”
Fraser recorded multiple sweet saves as both teams enjoyed a number of Grade A scoring chances.
“We knew we would score on him if we kept shooting and going hard to the net,” said Roest. “They were a good team; they’re Tier 1 so we knew we had to work hard.”
Austin’s favourite NHL sniper is Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He says having his father Stacy, a former NHLer, as an assistant coach to Trevor Seibel, is a very workable partnership.
“It’s good. He helps a lot on the bench and he gives me a lot of good advice.”
Mustang goalie Matthew Kuhnlein, who entered the tournament with a 15-3-1 record and 3.87 GAA, also flashed some marvellous athleticism. He reached back and gloved a puck everybody in the arena thought was going in, at four minutes of the third period.
“I don’t know how I saved it: I just knew it was behind me,” said Kuhnlein, an 11-year-old in Grade 6 at Harwood Elementary. “I was kind of nervous since this is the longest-serving tournament in B.C. and we have to work hard because we (Vernon) have a reputation of winning.”
Kuhnlein, who plays a hybrid style and loves the Rangers and their net detective Henrik Lundqvist, said the Mustangs played an unselfish style to bounce the Bruins.
Erik Pastro supplied the other Vernon goal, banging in a rebound from ‘gimme range’ after Fraser stoned Nick Noren early in the third period. Jarred Feist drew the secondary assist to put the Mustangs up 3-2.
Owen Hopcott, with a deuce, and Carter Anderson answered for Chilliwack with Hopcott opening the offence 2:36 after the opening faceoff and levelling things at 2-2 just 45 seconds into the middle stanza, from Jackson Hardy.
Roest tied it 1-1 five minutes after the Bruins grabbed the early lead, Jace Weir earning the helper. Roest pocketed the go-ahead snipe, shorthanded, after a faceoff with 13 seconds remaining in the first period. Bennett Kuhnlein and Weir were awarded assists.
Anderson made it 3-3 eight minutes after Pastro’s tally, converting a wrister from just inside the ringette line. Logan McMillan provided the assist.
“We played good for 10 minutes in the third and then we kind of let off,” said hustling 12-year-old Chilliwack captain Greye Rampton, a Pittsburgh Penguins fan who showed some class by comforting Clarke just before the handshake. “Some parts of the game, we didn’t move the puck well and we panicked a lot.”
The Bruins open the Fraser Valley playoffs next week versus Cloverdale.
California, meanwhile, got 2+1 from power forward Yovannia Flores to get past Cochrane.
Lance Jasamis and Elijah Hull contributed singles for the Wave, who led 3-0 after 40 minutes. The first period was scoreless. Trenton Spademan replied for the Rockies.
The Montana Thunderblades, who are coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, Sherwood Park Spartans of Alberta, Seafair Islanders of Richmond and the West Kootenay Rapids round out the Classic roster.
Vernon takes on California in the feature game tonight at 6 and then finish preliminary play Friday, 5:30 p.m., against Cochrane. The playoffs go Saturday with the Amy Myles Memorial A side final slated for Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Visit: theclassic.ca for more information.