It was a spectacular season for Vernon goalie Austin Seibel, with a provincial gold medal and a second-straight Vernon International Coca-Cola Pee Wee Classic title with the Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs.
Things got even dreamier with a trip to the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc region of France.
Seibel, 13, joined some of the best 2005-born players from around North America and Europe for the recent 2018 World Selects Invitational Hockey tournament.
The Grade 7 Coldstream Elementary student minded the net for the West Coast Selects, coached by Dave Cunning of Kelowna. The Selects finished fifth out of 18 teams after a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime quarterfinal loss to Finland. Declan Boser of Saskatoon went the distance in goal.
Accompanied by his parents, Trevor and Tanya, and older sisters Emma and Olivia, Seibel, a Vancouver Canucks fan, loved everything about the adventure, which he raised $3,800 to cover his own travel expenses.
“Our whole family went on a 13,00o-foot gondola ride up Mt. Blanc,” he said. “We were in Annecy which is a huge city. The water’s so clean and there are mountains all around.”
The Selects thumped South East France 10-1 in their only pre-tournament tilt. Seibel picked up the win after holding France scoreless during his half of the game, including a key pad save on a penalty shot.
The Selects opened the tourney against Finland. The Finns overpowered the Selects 12-1 with Seibel taking the loss. The ambush woke up the West Coast boys as they proceeded to rattle off five consecutive wins.
“I was tired when we got there but we had practices before games so that helped us adjust. It was really good hockey.”
The winning streak started with a 4-2 win over Dynamo Minsk (Belarus) with Boser taking the win. Later that same day, the Selects stormed Latvia 9-3 with Seibel stopping 36 shots. Seibel was especially sharp in the first half with the Selects up 4-2 despite being outshot 24-19. Gracyn Sawchyn (Minnesota) pocketed 4+1, while Ewan Minisofer (Kelowna) added one goal.
The streak continued the next day with the selects picking up an 8-0 win over a team from the Baltic region. Luke Korte (Saskatoon) with 3+1 and Zack Zhang (California) with the hat trick provided all the offence needed for Boser.
The West Coast Selects closed pool play with an 8-1 win over the ALPS Selects with Seibel recording 20 saves for the win.
Boser was in net as the Selects iced the Ural Selects of Russia 5-3.
In the quarters, Finland levelled the score with 1:40 left in regulation. Early in overtime, Weiermair hit the crossbar and then was stopped twice, point blank, by the Finnish goalie. Finland scored on a scramble 30 seconds later after knocking the puck loose from Boser’s glove.
Seibel, who played some centre when he first tried hockey at age five, used his calm approach to goaltending in France.
“I don’t really get nervous except if it’s a final. I don’t get super nervous in that I can’t play because of butterflies. I always keep calm and stay focused. I learned to keep your head up and if you let in a bad goal, to quickly put it behind you. I’m kind of all styles, whatever it takes to stop the puck.”
He gained that strategy from former Western Hockey League goalie Jeff Glass at a webinar on mental toughness earlier this season.
As for the food in France, Seibel smiled and quickly answered when asked his favourite dish.
“Crepes. In Chamonix, they only had jam in their crepes so we started buying strawberries. I pretty much tried everything.”