Entering last week’s B.C. Amateur Hockey pee wee Tier 1 provincial tournament, the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies were an afterthought in some people’s minds.
That was just the kind of motivation the team needed, as they won their way to a berth in the championship game against the vaunted Burnaby Winter Club.
The Grizzlies, who left it all on the ice in a 6-3 comeback victory over North Shore Winter Club last Wednesday morning, had little bite left by the evening. They wound up losing 9-0 to the well-travelled mainland squad at South Surrey Arena.
“It wasn’t an easy tournament,” Grizzlies head coach Jesse Harris said afterward. “We came in being ranked fifth in the province. We were seen as the underdogs with Prince George.”
The Juan de Fuca boys opened with a splash on March 15, stunning the host Semiahmoo Eagles in a 6-2 win, a contest that Harris characterized as his team’s “best game of the season.”
The Grizzlies followed up the next day with a 4-2 win over Prince George and a hard-fought 3-3 tie with Kelowna, before facing the eventual champs for the first time, on St. Patrick’s Day. They hung with Burnaby for a while, but had a tough time solving their opponent’s high-powered offence and lost 10-5.
With the other spot in the final up for grabs between three teams entering the final day of play, the Grizzlies needed a win to clinch at least a tie for second in the round robin.
Shorthanded for much of the first half of the game, they fell behind 2-0 then 3-1 late in the second period to North Shore, which was already out of the running with just one win in four games. The Grizzlies regrouped in the final five minutes of the period to tie it up 3-3, then scored twice more in the opening 4:08 of the third to take control.
“We took the hard way against North Shore and had to claw our way to a victory,” Harris said. “That led to the boys being quite fatigued in the final game. But overall it was a good tournament.”
Team members include goaltenders Ryan Dusseault and Dylan Garand, plus Chase Barlow, Cole Belton, Carter Cochrane, Jayden Cull, Carson Echlin, Jackson Estey, Owen Evers, Lukas Fikowski, Ty Gibson, Chase Klassen, Jayden Kurvers, Evan Law, Payton Mount, John Ross and Kristjan Shoemaker. Assistant coaches are Jeff Thompson and Jason Kurvers and team manager is Doug Estey.
It was a pretty impressive season for the Grizzlies, who wound up the year with a record of 40-4-4 overall. They went undefeated in Island league play, won a Christmas tournament in Chilliwack and placed third in another in Richmond. They lost just one playoff game and beat Nanaimo to qualify for the provincials.
“Coming out of the (Island) tiering round at the start, it was pretty evident that we were going to be big contenders this year,” said Harris, in his first year coaching the team.
Made up of mainly second-year pee wee players, the team had three objectives for the season, he said: “To win the league, to win the Island and to win provincials. They almost solidified their goals.”