On Monday the invitation went out – a team had dropped out of the invitational AAA Pacific Spring Showcase – would the 2000 NW Junior Giants be interested in icing a team?
Six days later, the team were crowned tournament champions, going 4-1-1, and shocking many in the Lower Mainland AAA hockey establishment in the process.
The team, which is mainly made up of NSWC and Hollyburn players, had to scramble to find players available at the last minute, as several regulars had already made other commitments for the Easter Weekend.
The team ended up adding five players to its core group, including a couple of kids who flew in from Dallas on Thursday night, and three from separate associations in the Lower Mainland.
The team started the tournament with a 3-2 win vs the Vancouver Snipers, who had handed the Jr. Giants an 8-3 loss in their first game – an exhibition match, in early April, prior to the Jr. Giants rallying to win the Mainland AA tournament the following weekend.
In game two the Giants came out flat, and were unable to score early or gain any momentum against the highly touted Alberta Alliance; who played an exceptionally strong game, winning 6-0. The Alliance had tied their opener 4-4 against the BC Outlaws.
In Saturday morning’s first contest, the Giants and Vancouver Island Monarchs battled to a 4-4 tie in an evenly matched contest that featured the Monarchs taking a 4-3 lead with 2 minutes left in the game, and the Giant’s tying it up with just 6 seconds left on the clock.
The final round robin game in the afternoon was equally tight, with the NW Giants squeaking out a 1-0 win over the Kootenay Avalanche.
Their 2-1-1 round robin record was good enough to establish a 4th place finish and a place in the semis on Sunday vs first place Jr. Steelers, who were 4-0.
On day two, the Alberta team had stumbled, losing 3-1 to the Steelers and tying the Dragons, a team made up primarily of Vancouver T-Bird players, 2-2, to finish out of the medal round, at 1-1-2.
The Dragons meanwhile, had downed the Monarchs 2-0 in their opener, lost 2-0 to Kootenay, then downed the Snipers 4-2 before tying the Alberta squad, to finish with the same 2-1-1 round robin record as the NW Giants, but in third place on a goals-against tie breaker.
In the semi-final match vs the #1 ranked Steelers team, after a scoreless first period, the NW Jr. Giants took 2-1 lead into the third before the Steelers scored on a point shot that deflected off a Giants stick on an attempted block in the high slot and tied the game at 2-2, forcing overtime.
Five minutes of 4 on 4 decided nothing, and the game went into a shootout. After 5 shooters, each team had scored once (Fournier, Kindree), sending the the shootout into sudden death. The Giants Hudson Schandor, the eighth shooter, beat Steelers Nick Lee seal the victory. The Giants Nik Hoem stopped 7 of 8 in a stellar performance.
The win sent the Giants to the gold medal game, against the Dragons, who had downed the BC Outlaws in another tight one goal decision, which ended 4-3.
That set up the Gold medal game with the two development oriented, association focused programs facing off against each other.
The game was another thriller, with the Giants coming up on top 5-4 to win the Gold.
Giants Jacob Fournier (5G, 1A), of NSWC, and Ryan Drkulec, one of the Dallas players (4G-1A), lead the Giants offensive attack throughout the tourney, while Scott Atkinson (3-3) and Jayden Ghieuw (2-4) lead the Dragons.
In the Bronze medal game, the Steelers regained their form and downed the BC Outlaws in a convincing 7-2 decision. Tyler Popowich (5G-4A) and Dexter Anderson (3-3) lead the Steelers offensively, while Nick Lee backstopped the Steelers in nets, allowing just 10 goals in 6 games.
In the consolation rounds, the Alberta Alliance finished strong with a 5-1 win over the Kootenay Avalanche; while the Vancouver Island Monarchs downed the Snipers 3-1.
NW Jr. Giants Roster:
NW Jr. Giants Head Coach: Clint Thornton, Assistants Kelvin Cech and Cam Paddock.