The host Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs and the West Kootenay Rapids of Nelson-Castlegar topped the standings at 46th annual Coca-Cola Classic Pee Wee Invitational Hockey Tournament at the Vernon Civic Arena.
Both went 3-0 heading into semifinal action Saturday where the Mustangs met the Seafair Islanders of Richmond and the Rapids took on the Chilliwack Bruins.
The two winners meet in the Amy Myles Memorial A event final Sunday at 5:30 p.m., while the losers tangle in the John Kuly Memorial B final at 3:15 p.m.
“The kids are excited to be playing in a championship semi final,” said Vernon head coach Trevor Seibel. “The boys have been playing some solid hockey so far and are feeling good about themselves as we head into semi-final Saturday.”
The defending champion Mustangs thumped the Cochrane Rockies of Alberta 10-0 Friday to close out their preliminary round.
Austin Roest and Bennett Kuhnlein each scored twice for Vernon while singles went to JJ Milne, Nick Noren, Jarred Feist, Deagan McMillan, Erik Pastro and Cash Anderson.
Pastro and Braden Schmiegelt each had two assists. Matthew Kuhnlein and Austin Seibel shared the shuout.
Captain Rhett Hamilton scored four times and added two assists to lead the Rapids to a 9-1 decision over the Sherwood Park Spartans. Connor Bettensen scored for Sherwood Park.
It was the Rapids’ second 9-1 victory of Friday.
Hamilton, Drake Proctor and Alexander Andersen each scored twice in West Kootenay’s romp over Seafair. Dylan Watts, Bryce Sookro and Reid Gerrand rounded out the Rapids offence. Koen Brusse replied for the Isles.
The Mustangs grounded the California Wave of Orange County 8-4 in the feature game Thursday night.
Bennett Kuhnlein and Feist each pocketed 2+1 for the Mustangs with Kuhnlein’s double toe-drag down the left wall the goal of the day.
Roest added 1+2, while d-man Jace Weir, Pastro and Anderson supplied singles in support of Austin Seibel, who did math homework as Vernon built up a 5-0 first-period lead.
Elijah Hull, with a deuce, Yovanni Flores and Caiden Mech answered for California, who trailed 6-3 after 40 minutes.
The Wave wore colourful toques as they skated out for the traditional team skate at opening ceremonies Thursday night. They frolicked in the snow after arriving in Vernon Wednesday.
“We never see snow,” smiled California goalie Jaden Lee. “It’s mostly sunny and occasionally raining. I looked at the weather forecast before we left so I was expecting to see snow. I’ve been to Canada before: we visited Toronto about five years ago.”
Their home arena is in Artesia, 20 minutes southeast of downtown L.A., and are the second largest club team in the Southwestern U.S. They attended a Dallas tournament earlier this season.
“I cheer for the (Anaheim) Ducks, but most of the guys like the Kings,” said Lee.
Consolation side games Saturday morning featured Battles of Alberta and America as Sherwood Park took on the Cochrane Rockies and California faced the Montana Thunderblades. The losers kick off Sunday’s final day action with the Mickey Ogasawara Memorial D final at 10 a.m., while the winners play in the Mickey McMahon Memoria C final at 12:30 p.m.
Vernon mayor Akbal Mund wore the black and silver Kings jersey to the opening ceremonies while welcoming all eight teams. Montana head coach Lanny McDonald later signed scores of autographs and posed for photos at the Vernon Lodge hospitality suite.
Longtime minor hockey and tournament volunteers Stu Mitchell and Gordie Nuyens shared the Rienie Holland Memorial Award for distinguished service from Rienie’s grand-daughter, Emily Holland. The presentation was made during opening ceremonies.