A two-minute lapse in the third period of their final game kept the Valley West Hawks from advancing to the playoff round of the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament in Calgary last week.
The Hawks surrendered three goals in those two minutes, and went on to lose 5-1 to the Sherwood Park Kings. Valley West, comprised of elite 15-17 year-olds from Surrey and North Delta, finished round robin play at the Mac’s with a 2-1-1 (win-loss-tie) record. They tied for first place in their five-team group, but missed the playoff round on a tiebreaker.
“We came close, we were two goals away from making it through, noted Hawks head coach Jessie Leung. “Our pool was ultra competitive, three teams went 2-1-1. Had we scored two more or given up two fewer goals we would have been in.”
Overall, it was a successful week for Valley West. Only eight teams (the five group winners plus three wild-cards) advanced to the playoff, and the Hawks were among the top eight until the final period of their final game.
With two wins and a tie in their first three games, the Hawks could have clinched a playoff berth with a tie against Sherwood Park. Ben Evanish gave Valley West a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but Sherwood Park dominated the final half of the game. The Kings tied the score before the second intermission, struck for three quick goals to break the tie and take a 4-1 lead. They added another goal with seven minutes remaining for the four-goal win.
“It’s a tough lesson for our team to learn,” said Leung. “I think we maybe got too comfortable where we were at, and let (the last game) slip away. Lesson learned is that there are no shifts off.”
Valley West began the tournament with a 3-3 tie against the Calgary Northstars. James Malm tallied to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead after one period, but they trailed 3-1 after two. Luka Burzan scored a pair of shorthanded goals in the final two minutes to steal the single point.
Against the Belarus U17 national team, the Hawks emerged with a 5-3 victory. Malm, Evanish, Justyn Gurney, Christian Bosa and Michael Farren were the goal scorers.
“I don’t know if anyone gave us a chance. All the press had Belarus as one of the favorites for the tournament,” said Leung. “The history of Hockey Canada permeates from the walls at Father David Bauer Arena, to be able to play and beat a visiting national team there was special.”
Valley West then topped the Prince Albert Mintos 4-3, with Evanish netting three goals and Ilijah Colina notching the winner.
“Overall, I’m happy with what we accomplished and hope this can give us some momentum going into 2016,” said Leung. “We had a group of players that rose to the stage and elevated their game to new heights.”
Valley West leads the BC Hockey Major Midget League with an 18-5-1 record, and will resumed league play next weekend with two games against the Thompson Blazers (2-18-6) in Kamloops.