As heartbreaking OT losses go, this one will be up there. But the Cloverdale U18 A1 Colts have nothing to hang their heads about, says head coach Brien Gemmell.
Gemmell’s squad lost to the undefeated North East Trackers 3-2 in overtime in the gold-medal semifinal game at the U18 A1 provincial championships March 23.
“It’s tough to lose a game like this,” said Gemmell. “These kids worked so hard. They put it all out there. I’m very proud of our team.”
The Colts lost their top defenseman in the second period and had to play with only four D for the rest of the game.
But as both teams traded chances in a scoreless first—after an 8 a.m. puck drop—it was clear both teams looked a little sluggish after playing late games the night before.
The Trackers found the back of the net first 1:17 into the second off a scramble in front. A defenseman took a shot from the point and a Tracker forward buried the rebound. The Trackers got their second goal a few minutes later when a Colts turnover in their own end gifted a puck to a Trackers player who then put a rebound past netminder Koen St. Hilaire.
To settle the players, coach Gemmell called a timeout. The short rest seemed to work as his squad battled back from that 2-0 deficit with two quick goals. Both Keenan Connor and Dawson Sucke potted powerplay markers in a span of 1:13.
Both teams seemed to get their legs back in a frenzied third of end-to-end action. The Colts and Trackers faced great goaltending in the opposite end and both teams failed to put good chances past the goalkeepers.
As the OT frame started both sides had early chances to end the game.
But just over three minutes into the OT frame, Trackers’ D-man Samuel Loewen lofted a wrist shot at the net from the point. The puck seemed to ricochet off the stick of Colts’ D-man Derek Hoffmann as he made a stab at the puck. The shot then navigated its way past two more skaters before beating netminder St. Hilaire in the top of the net.
“It was an unlucky deflection and it found the back of the net. But that’s usually what happens on overtime goals,” said Gemmell. “You hope it’s you. You hope it’s your team that gets it, but this time it wasn’t.”
“We have an opportunity to play tonight for the bronze and we have to pick ourselves back up and get ready for the next one.”
Despite the heartbreaker, Gemmell’s happy with how his team’s performed overall in the tourney.
“It’s been a great tournament for us,” said Gemmell. “We’re the top team out of the Lower Mainland that are still left. So we’ve got that already, but we want to go out and get a piece of metal around our neck in the bronze medal game.” (That game was played after we went to press.)
Gemmell added that next year’s Colts’ team is looking great too. He said the team will be bigger and stronger and a little more experienced than this version of the squad.
“We have six 15-year-old first-years on this team,” he noted. “We have eight 16-year-olds, only four graduating players, and two 15-year-old goalies on this team. These kids stepped up massively this year.”
He said the players were right there with other teams that were bigger and older during the tournament, and over the course of the hockey season.
“They held their own in some really intense playoff hockey. I’m very proud of these guys.”
U15 A1 Colts
In other provincial championship action, Cloverdale’s U15 A1 team is also guaranteed a medal at their Tier 1 provincial tournament.
The U15 Colts will play for gold March 23 (also after we went to press) in Langford after they defeated the East Kootenay Zone team 5-4 in their semi-final game.
The U15 Colts went 3-0-1 in their round robin, defeating Okanagan Thompson Regional 8-1, tieing West Kootenay Zone 4-4, downing the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies 8-1, and dumping North Central/North West 10-1.
The Colts now face the West Kootenay Zone team after they defeated Semiahmoo 5-1 in the other U15 semi-final game March 23.