The Rellish Transport Bantam A Female Lakers made their first ever trip to Hayley Wickenhieser’s World Female Hockey Festival in Surrey over the weekend, and came home with the championship banner.
The “Wickfest” tournament ended in thrilling fashion for the Bantam Tier 1 team from Vernon, but an equally exciting highlight was meeting Wickenheiser herself, along with four-time Olympic medallist and Team Canada forward Meghan Agosta.
“Being able to hold and see these Olympic medals and to meet a female hockey idol was the best way to start the weekend,” said Taryn Robertson with the Lakers, referring Agosta’s pre-tournament meeting with the girls. Wickenheiser – widely hailed as the greatest female hockey player of all time – met with the team midway through the weekend.
The Lakers opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over the hosting Surrey Falcons. Goaltender Nya Lesage earned MVP honours, backstopping her team to victory with 19 saves on 20 shots. Vernon’s Willow Elliott opened the scoring in the second period, assisted by Faith Seehaver.
Sophia Winstanley followed up with an unassisted goal. Surrey tried to come back and scored late in the second but that was all they could muster, thanks in part to a perfect three-for-three Vernon penalty kill.
Later that same day the Lakers took on the Abbotsford Ice Rep, scoring two third period goals to complete a 2-0 shutout victory. Parker Davidson kicked off the scoring halfway through the third, captain Holly Magnus added an unassisted goal and Jordan Tung was perfect in net with 17 saves.
The Lakers finished 3-0-1 in the round robin after beating the Kelowna Rockets and playing the Oceanside Impact to a tie. That record was good enough to set up a rematch with Surrey – this time in the finals.
Surrey got off to a hot start in Sunday’s grand finale with a goal about five minutes into the first and another in the opening minutes of the second.
Down 2-0, the Lakers kept fighting.
With 36 seconds left in the second, Kaisy Huber scored to bring the Lakers within one goal. Then in the third, while the Lakers were playing suffocating defence, Magnus got the equalizer.
The score was even at 2-2 at the end of regulation, and by Wickfest rules, that meant the teams were heading straight to a shootout.
After Lesage stopped the first Surrey shooter, Lilly Roberts made good on her attempt to give the Lakers the early advantage in the skills test. Lesage again held her ground on Surrey’s second attempt, paving the way for Huber to seal the deal, and she made no mistake.
“Two come back wins, including winning the Championship in a thrilling shootout after overcoming a 2-0 deficit, shows how determined and resilient this group is,” said coach Brent Magnus.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team. We are bringing the banner from our first-ever Wickfest appearance back home to Vernon!”