They averaged just three goals a game in a disappointing Okanagan Mainline Pee Wee Tier 1 Hockey League season.
Come the 42nd Coca-Cola Invitational Pee Wee Hockey Classic, where the heart beats faster, the Watkin Motors Mustangs amped up their offence enough to reach Saturday’s semifinals at Civic Arena. Vernon was scheduled to meet the defending champion Vancouver Thunderbirds Saturday afternoon, with the winner playing in tonight’s Amy Myles Memorial A championship game at 5:30.
Keith Chase’s Mustangs brushed back the Edmonton Seera Icemen 6-3 Friday afternoon to finish second in the Coca-Cola Division at 2-1. Watkin Motors toppled the Hollyburn Huskies of West Vancouver 5-3 Thursday night. The Coke Division champion Springbank Whalers of Calgary (3-0) took on the Nanaimo Clippers (2-1) in the other Saturday semi.
Towering centre Coleton Bilodeau scored twice and set up another as the Mustangs defeated the Icemen (0-3). Captain Dylan Sedlacek, Powell Connor, Rowan Miller and Nick Cherkowski added singles for Vernon, who had Jordan Wilde in net.
Liam Belcourt, Chase Lowry and Aryton Laderoute countered for the Icemen, who spent most of the third period shorthanded.
“We tried to get a hard forecheck going off the start and we capitalized on our chances and didn’t give them anything,” said Bilodeau, who just missed on three or four other shots from the slot.
“It’s great coming up against Vancouver or Nanaimo; I think we can take ‘em.”
The Mustangs enjoyed a six-minute powerplay in the third period, but looked disjointed as they tried to move the puck around.
“We were a little disappointed in our powerplay,” said Bilodeau. “We tried to work around the umbrella, but we just couldn’t score. It didn’t hurt us in the end and it worked out.”
Bilodeau said the Mustangs, who bowed 4-3 to Springbank in their opener, knew it was going to be a competitive tournament.
“We were expecting to be in the semis; I don’t think we were expecting to be in three close games. We heard Springbank was supposed to be a pretty good team but we were right there with them.”
Connor, who has made some electrifying rushes for the Mustangs, said his team kept things simple against Edmonton.
“We were getting pucks deep and getting in on the forecheck and creating turnovers,” said Connor.
On Wilde’s stellar play in net, Connor said: “He’s awesome; he always holds us in games.”
In the win over Hollyburn, who the Mustangs had also beat in a Kelowna tournament earlier this season, it was Bilodeau, Dawson Chase, Connor, Cherkowski and Sedlacek providing the goals. Dangerous Denis Tuck (2) and Ryan Upson countered for the 1-2 Huskies.
Springbank upended the Icemen 6-3 Thursday night and then outlasted Hollyburn 6-4 Friday afternoon to take the Coke category.
Vancouver stuffed the Southland Sabres of Calgary 6-1 Friday morning and ambushed Nanaimo 8-1 Friday night to win the Sun Valley Source For Sports division. Ari Sky pulled the hat trick as Vancouver punished the Clippers. Kaeden Patrick and Ian Walker each added a deuce for the T-Birds.
Nanaimo outlasted the Spokane Jr. Chiefs 11-7, while the Sabres shaded the Chiefs 3-2 in other Friday action.
The B final goes today at 3:15 p.m.