To say that the Semiahmoo Peewee A1 Ravens’ season has been, to date, remarkably successful, would be something of an understatement.
Since the puck dropped on the minor-hockey season back in the fall, the South Surrey/White Rock squad has been barreling through the competition, both in league play and in tournaments. They’ve routinely defeated tradition powerhouse squads like Burnaby Winter Club; in December, they won the peewee division of the Pat Quinn Classic tournament in Burnaby, and overall, they’ve lost just once, and tied twice, in nearly 50 games.
According to online websites that rank such things, the Ravens are also the No. 1 peewee team in Western Canada, and the fourth-best in the entire country.
But next month, they’ll face their stiffest test yet – international competition.
In two weeks, the team – made up of 11- and 12-year-olds – will head east for the prestigious Quebec International Peewee Tournament, which features some of the top youth teams from all corners of world. Semiahmoo’s first game is Feb. 15 against SKA St. Petersburg from Russia.
“They’re throwing us right into the fire,” laughed coach Shane Kuss, who, along with Matt Erhart, is at the helm of the talented peewee crew.
“They’re probably going to be one of the best teams there, but that’s good. That’s what you want. That’s the whole point of this tournament – to get that kind of experience. Where else would these kids get a chance to play a team from Russia?
“It’s pretty cool. You don’t want to go all the way to Quebec just to play another team from B.C.”
Though the Quebec City competition will be new to his players, Kuss – who, like Erhart, is a former head coach of the BC Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles – has experience at the tournament, having played in it as a peewee-aged player in South Delta.
“It was just a cool experience – with Carnaval being there and all that stuff,” he explained. “I think those types of things are just as much a part of the experience as playing the games.
“Not too many people get to experience something like this in their lifetime, so the kids are pretty excited about it.”
On the ice, Kuss expects all the competition they’ll face – not just the Russians – to be elite. Through the years, the tournament has played host to many talented players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League, from Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne in the 1960s, to Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros in the late ’70s and ’80s.
A handful of tournament alums – including Lafleur – will be on hand this year to sign autographs and meet the current players.
Though the tournament attracts plenty of attention in media and minor-hockey circles alike – Kuss called it “one of the best tournaments in all of minor hockey” – the Ravens, who will play in the ‘elite’ division, should be somewhat accustomed to any extra attention.
As a result of their success thus far, as well as the multi-cultural make-up of their team, the Ravens have been featured on OMNI TV.
— SemiPeeweeA1 (@a1_semi) January 6, 2019
Kuss said he’s enjoyed every moment of coaching the young group, and has tried to impart the same lessons now as he did with his older, junior teams in the past.
“It’s been fun. They’re all wanting to learn and what we want to do is help kids eventually get to the next level and have them understand what it means to play at the next level, and try to build those details and good habits into their game while they’re young,” he said.
“Obviously, you’re running things a little differently (than you would a junior team), but the details, the habits – you can start instilling those things now.”
The team’s success also hasn’t come as a great surprise, said Kuss, who along with Erhart, also serves in player-development roles with the Semiahmoo Minor Hockey association.
“We kind of knew beforehand what this group was capable of. We knew there was a great group of players and people, so we had a pretty good idea that we’d have a solid team. But you never really know for sure until you get the team and start playing,” said Kuss.
“At the end of the day, you can have really good players, but if you don’t have a really good team, it all kind of goes out the window… but when you have a great group of people who are working together for a common purpose, it’s great. And when you’ve got really good players, it makes it even better.”
Since being accepted into the Quebec tournament, the team has been busy fundraising, trying to drum up individual and corporate support to help offset the costs of such a big trip.
“It’s been good – a lot of really great people have stepped up so far,” said Kuss, whose team will also host provincials later this spring.
For businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring the team, email semipeeweeA1@gmail.com. The team also has a GoFundMe set up at www.gofundme.com/road-to-quebec-international-tournament
Meanwhile, while parents and managers sort out the off-the-ice logistics of such a trip, the players and coaches will focus on their upcoming opponents in La belle province.
“It’s going to be a great thing to go there and see how we match up,” Kuss said.
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