Winning gold is the cherry on top of a great WHL Cup experience for Penticton Vees assistant coach Jason Becker.
Becker was part of the coaching staff, led by Summerland’s Steve O’Rourke, of Team B.C.’s under-16 entry. For the first time since 2012, and the second time overall, B.C. has won the WHL Cup (formerly Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup) after a 4-3 overtime victory over Alberta on Sunday. Only B.C. and Alberta have won this event which started in 2009 (no tournament held in Canada Winter Games years).
“It was great,” said Becker of the championship game. “It was obviously our best game of the weekend. We had a slow start. It kind of all came together. Everything that we had asked of the kids to do and in regards to playing the game fast, playing it hard and just being accountable to each other and competing for 60 minutes. A real good hockey game on both sides.”
It was the second straight gold medal game, featuring Team B.C. and Team Alberta. This time it was Ben King (Vernon) scoring the game-winner.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) October 23, 2017
Alberta scored the only goal in the first period on a tally by Kaiden Guhle. The Wild Rose province made it 2-0 as Connor McLennon scored at 12:51 of the second period. Team B.C. responded with a pair of goals to end the period as Justin Sourdif (Surrey) and Tyson Phare (Maple Ridge) got B.C. even at two goals a-piece after 40 minutes of play.
Team B.C. took its first lead on a Ryan Watson (Delta) goal early in the third period. McClennon evened the score with his second goal of the game with under two minutes to go in regulation.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) October 22, 2017
King won it for B.C. only 2:37 into overtime. Vees recruit Cole Shepard earned the second assist on the goal.
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“I thought Cole had a good tournament. It’s obviously different for kids to come from their club teams and play with different players, try to understand maybe a new system or a new structure that we would like to see them play as coaches,” he said. “For Cole, I thought he did a good job. Cole was pretty consistent and definitely saved his best for last and it was nice to see him be a part of that winning goal.”
Shepard finished with a goal and three points in five games. Wyatt Marlow of the Okanagan Hockey Academy picked up an assist for B.C. in the championship game, his lone point in five games.
Becker said it was great to be back in the program after coaching Team Pacific in 2013.
“You know you are getting the best of the best players. They are the ones that have been identified as the future of hockey, not only for the province, but for the country in terms of the national junior team and hopefully professional careers,” said Becker. “It’s always nice to have an opportunity to coach the high-end kids and get to learn how they play the game and how they look at the game.”
Manitoba defeated Saskatchewan in the bronze medal game earlier in the day.
|Draped with the B.C. flag, Penticton Vees assistant coach Jason Becker, left, and recruit Cole Shepard, show off their gold medal after winning the Western Hockey League Cup in Calgary.
Photo from Penticton Vees Twitter account
Team B.C. rallied back from a rough start to the tournament after dropping their first two games of the WHL Cup. They lost 3-2 in a shootout to Manitoba and were beaten 6-2 by Alberta before a 6-0 win over Saskatchewan to finish the round-robin at 1-1-0-1. B.C. continued their hot play in their semifinal game with a 7-0 victory over Saskatchewan.
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