The Vanderhoof Cycle North Bantam Bears hosted the Omineca League Zone Playdowns on Feb. 23 and 24. Smithers, Houston and Burns Lake also participated. The teams were vying for a spot in the Bantam Tier 4 Provincial Championships in Houston from March 16 to 21.
In their first game on Saturday morning, the Bears faced off against their arch rivals from Burns Lake. Vanderhoof prevailed 5-3 in a hard fought game. The Bears received balanced scoring as all three lines managed to score goals in the game. Goalie Dixon Loewen was solid in leading the team to victory.
That evening, the Bears played Smithers and skated away with a 11-0 win. On Sunday morning, the Bears concluded the round-robin portion of the playdowns with a 10-1 victory over Houston, thus clinching a berth in the finals against the Burns Lake Bruins.
In the championship game played Sunday afternoon, Vanderhoof showed early jitters playing in front of a large, vocal crowd and fell behind 2-0 by the 15 minute mark of the first period. A late goal from Daulton Swanson got the Bears back into the game and helped settle the nerves of players and spectators. Early in the second period Vanderhoof tied the game when a shot from just inside the blueline by Owen Wiens managed to find its way past Burns Lake goalie Noah Nicol. The Bruins quickly took back the lead, however, capatalizing on a turnover in the Bears zone and scoring on Vanderhoof goalie Mark Pearson.
The turning point in the game occurred late in the second period when, while shorthanded, the Bears’ Calvin Li intercepted the puck just outside the Burns Lake blueline and skated in on a breakaway to score. A few minutes later, Vanderhoof took their first lead of the game when Eric Silver caused a turnover inside the Bruins blueline and set up Kolby Page for a nice goal. The second period ended with the Bears leading 4-3.
In the third period Vanderhoof ran into early penalty trouble and Burns Lake capatalized on a 5-on-3 man advantage to tie the game 4-4. Shortly thereafter Eric Silver redeemed himself after taking a costly penalty and banged in a goal from in front of the Bruins net. Linemates Kolby Page and Daulton Swanson assisted on the play. From that point on the Bears started to take over the game and dominated the last 10 minutes against a tiring Burns Lake team that appeared out of gas. Silver scored an insurance goal with about 6 minutes remaining with assists again coming from Page and Swanson.
The Bears swarmed the opposition goal over the last few minutes but couldn’t get any more pucks past Nicol, who had a strong game in the Burns Lake net. The game ended 6-4 and Vanderhoof celebrated a hard fought and well deserved victory against a very good and respected opponent. Mark Pearson played very well in goal for the Bears, particularly in the third period when he came up with some big, momentum-changing saves.
Congratulations to the Vanderhoof Cycle North Bantam Bears on winning zones and qualifying for the Provincial Championships in Houston.