Playing competitive hockey with some of their best friends was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Westshore Junior Wolves spring team in 2015.
This collection of 2000-born players, ranging from major midget level players to those who play house league, used that rapport and more last month to defend their divisional crown at the Canlan-B.C. Memorial Holiday Classic in Langley and Burnaby.
“We were all good friends, so the chemistry and all that got us going,” said team member Brendan Martin, who played this past season with the Westshore Grizzlies Tier 1 midget team. “We were really supportive of each other. The last game we were all together and passing the puck and all that. It was a cool thing.”
It was Martin and some friends who, after a hockey academy practice one day started talking about how they wanted to put together a spring hockey team with their buddies who were playing at lower tiers. The 15 year old came home and informed his dad, Craig that the boys wanted him to coach.
Craig Martin took on the coaching duties with help of Matt Curtis and Damon Leeson, and got quick buy-in from the dedicated group of parents. Martin pointed out that spring hockey can get expensive, as hockey schools have long been a business proposition, so the players and parents made every attempt to keep the costs down and make it affordable.
Having won the Canlan tournament last year, the group decided to expand their approach this season and registered for two tourneys, on back-to-back weekends.
While the first tournament, the Challenge Cup in Vancouver, saw the Wolves get a bit schooled from dedicated spring teams with players drafted by Western Hockey League teams, the Canlan tourney the following weekend was a different story.
Down 2-0 to the Fraser Valley Royals after the first period of the championship game and behind 3-2 entering the final frame, the Wolves went on the offensive and outscored their opponent 3-1 in the last 15-minute period to win 5-4.
Ben Duffin scored his second goal of the period, hammering home a loose puck with 39 seconds to play, to complete the Wolves’ comeback.
“We forechecked the heck out of them in the third period and wore ‘em down,” said Craig Martin. “The guys were going to the net and Ben got the rebound.”
The Wolves went 3-1-1 overall at the tournament, with a round robin 3-3 tie coming against Fraser Valley. Westshore’s only loss was a 2-1 decision to the Vancouver Icemen, a team the Wolves beat 3-0 in the semifinal rematch. Cam St. Pierre picked up the shutout in that game.
Brendan Martin said overall the team has provided everyone with a great experience.
“The kids at the lower end got to face academy (players), which was the highest level they’ve played,” he said.
“It’s cool to have all our friends together that was what made it all fun.”
Other Wolves players were James Vince, Ian Ker, Joe Leakey, Brandon McClintick, Blake Dreyer, Jax Leeson, Bryson Hines, Matt Cleland, Ethan Fester, Brett Hattic, Mike Dupuis, Tyler Magnuson, Brendan Martin and Jordan Rolleston.