Team Alberta’s reign in the WHL Cup came to an end on Sunday.
According to Team B.C. head coach Steve O’Rourke, some of Surrey and Delta’s finest young hockey players came through for the team when it mattered most.
Surrey natives Justin Sourdif and Cameron MacDonald were two key forwards for Team B.C. in the tournament. They’ve been instrumental in leading the Valley West Hawks to an early unbeaten record in the BCMML.
SEE ALSO: Team B.C. wins the WHL Cup
Defenceman Ryan Watson of the Delta Hockey Academy was a major factor in the tournament, especially during the last half of the gold medal game. Watson scored the go-ahead goal and his point shot was tipped in for the overtime winner.
“We just kept believing in what we’d been doing the whole tournament,” said O’Rourke. “The boys battled hard all the way through.”
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey_Source) October 23, 2017
Justin Sourdif came into this tournament as one of the most hyped players on Team B.C.
The third overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft came as advertised, leading the team with four goals in five games. His goals came when it mattered most, as he scored in the final two games, both of which were elimination games.
“As the tournament went along, his speed and his talent was more and more noticeable each game, O’Rourke said. “He came up big in the semi’s and again in the final.”
O’Rourke mentioned that for Sourdif, and a number of other players on the team, there was an adjustment period.
“These kids come from programs where they’re top players on their team, and for most of them it’s been that way their whole life,” O’Rourke said. “It’s not always easy for them to come in here and share that ice time.”
Going into the tournament, Team Alberta was the clear favourite, with B.C. as the runner-up. Manitoba and Saskatchewan were two teams battling uphill.
That mentality got B.C. into some trouble early in the tournament.
“For Justin, it took some time to realized what the competition was,” O’Rourke said. “It takes time to realized that every team is going to play us as hard as possible.”
Another player who dealt admirably with an early adjustment in the tournament was Watson. O’Rourke and his staff changed Watson’s role after some early struggles, and it paid off.
“He’s a guy that deserves a lot of credit,” he said.
“He had a bit of a struggle getting his shots through, so we made a change and he took it in stride.” A lot of guys would have taken it the wrong way, but he took it the right way.”
“He kept playing for the team and he’s able to go home a winner because of it.”
— The WHL (@TheWHL) October 22, 2017
When asked about who impressed him the most throughout the tournament, one of the names that O’Rourke mentioned was Hawks forward, MacDonald.
“He’s a guy that won’t get a lot of limelight. He played on the power play and created a ton of chances standing in front of the net,” said O’Rourke.
“On one of Justin’s goals, the goalie never saw it because of Cam. It takes a lot of character to go to those places.”
Team B.C. assistant coach Jason Brecker put MacDonald on the power play early in the tournament. Despite standing at 5’8, 162 lbs, O’Rourke applauded MacDonald for playing the game with tenacity.
“He’s a hard, smart player and he wasn’t afraid to stand in front of the net,” said O’Rourke.
MacDonald finished with four assists in the five-game tournament, and O’Rourke was thrilled with his performance while flying under the radar.
“For some of these guys, it’s hard to not always need the limelight and to just go and do your job. Cam is one of those kids.”
It still took a full-team effort for the boys from B.C. to beat the reigning champs from Alberta.
“It’s twenty guys on the team,” O’Rourke said. “They bought in as we went along.
“They came in as boys and left as men.”
It’s clear that the local talent from Surrey and Delta played a large role in capturing the title. Sourdif was named a tournament all-star. Sourdif, Watson and McDonald all finished top-five in scoring on Team B.C.
The role that those three players had in the gold medal victory wasn’t lost on O’Rourke.
“There’s quite a bit of talent there, that’s for sure.”