Penticton-based clubs sweep prestigious hockey tournament
Two Penticton teams emerged as champs at the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament.
Okanagan Hockey Academy Red defended their Tier 1 title against Kamloops Jardine Blazers during the 46th annual KIBIHT on Jan. 5, while the Vees Tier 2 prevailed against Vernon Tier 1 in the Tier 2 division.
Mike Needham, coach of OHA Red, said his team played strong as a group in a 4-2 win.
“I give them credit for hanging around and playing hard, but we were very good and deserved to win,” said Needham.
He said it was a good tournament and that they were challenged in many games.
“It was good competition and that’s really what you hope for when you go to an event is to be challenged,” said Needham, whose team won all six of their games. “We had to play very well to win.”
The OHA Red opened with a 5-0 win against the Vancouver T-Birds, then edged the Kelowna AAA Rockets 2-1 and closed out the round-robin portion pasting the Cloverdale Colts 8-0. In the playoffs, they defeated the Calgary Northstars 2-1 and faced the T-Birds, again winning 3-1. Brandon Armstrong scored the winner for OHA Red and Akash Bains tallied the insurance marker.
The Blazers proved to be the OHA’s toughest opponent, playing hard and sacrificing their body to block shots, said Needham.
“Their goalie played extremely well,” he said of Jakob Walter.
Needham, who was named the top coach for the Tier 1 side, said his team played their most consistent hockey of the season.
“We transitioned the puck well. We seemed to control the play more so than in other events,” said Needham. Receiving awards for the team were Michael Rasmussen for forward, while Hayden Ostir was the tournament’s top scorer.
When asked about the victory by the bantam Vees coached by Rob McLaughlin, Needham said, “you can’t really ask for anything more” with the two teams winning.
“It’s a big event. It’s got a tremendous history,” said Needham, who played in it with a Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. team in 1984. “We are excited about it as a group. We are doing some good things.”
For the bantam Vees, defeating Vernon Tier 1 helped them even the season series between the two in the four tournaments at which they have faced off against each other.
McLaughlin said his players were ready for the game, itching to play, but looked at Vernon as just another team. McLaughlin liked how his group responded mentally and physically. Tyler Maser scored the winning goal for the Vees as he was setup by twin brother Josh, who earned tournament most valuable player honours, along with awards for top scorer and forward.
McLaughlin praised the play of his goalies Alyck Coombes, who made 28 saves in the final, and Matts Bratton. Simon Snyman was strong defensively for the Vees.
“I was proud of them,” said McLaughlin, who was named the top coach for the Tier 2 side. “I thought they played a great game. At certain times Vernon kind of held the play. Overall, I thought we held a lot of the play.”
Captain Raphael Bassot was named a top forward in the Tier 2 division and was named championship game MVP.
Josh Maser and Bassot were also named to the all-star team. What impressed McLaughlin about his team was how well they played as a group and not individuals.
“I really think that they actually bought into their roles,” he added. “Really came together at the end.”
Throughout the tournament, McLaughlin said his team was solid as they allowed just one goal in three round-robin games. With 16 teams in Tier 2, McLaughlin said there were a lot of good teams. With KIBIHT organizers moving the tournament dates ahead from spring break, McLaughlin said the tournament will only get better.
“They want to try to build this so they have the best teams coming at Christmas time,” he said. “I spoke with Mike Needham, he said that the depth in the Tier 1 was much stronger this year than last year.”
Ice chips: OHA Black also played in the tournament and finished 0-3 in the round robin.