The NWSC Midget A1 team captured the PCAHA league banner on their final game of the regular season, at home Feb 2, for the first time since 1987-88.
The Hawks defeated North Vancouver A1 4-0 in a game headlined by a three goal performance by Alex Uryga, and finished off with a tip in by team captain Shane Terrillon.
The Hawks entered the game two points behind Coquitlam Chiefs, who were also playing their final league game, at home against Cloverdale, the ninth place team.
For the Hawks to finish first, not only would they have to win all three points in their own game vs North Van, but Cloverdale (4-10-3) would also have to beat first place Coquitlam (12-2-3), and limit the Chiefs to the single sportsmanship point at most.
That scenario would give both teams a record of 40 points, but the Hawks would have one more win, and that would give them the banner.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Somehow Cloverdale managed to beat Coquitlam 7-2 despite being out shot and out played. It was as if the hockey gods had finally smiled on the Hawks, and said OK, you’ve earned a break.
The banner win represents a huge turnaround for the Winterhawk midget program. In the past eight years the best the team has done is place fifth. In 2007 the team placed 8th in Tier 2. Last year, 8th, with a record of 4-11-3; the year before, 10th, 3-12-3.
Head coach Duncan Vyner attributes the team’s turnaround to one key mental element: commitment.
“The big difference was in the buy-in by the whole team to do all the little things that are key to being a successful Tier 1 team, being an hour early to practices, committing to extra work outs, and to setting goals.”
Vyner also gives a lot of credit to the leadership of team captain Shane Terrillon.
“Shane has been a big part of it, he’s been a good leader, he’s helped set goals, focus the team, and has been a strong voice on the bench.”
Vyner also pointed to the strong play of the teams two goalies, veteran Jonathan Donohoe and 1999 born Cole Demers, who between them posted 7 shut outs, and allowed just 27 goals against in 18 games, including one uncharacteristic 6 GA outing vs Ridge Meadows two weeks ago.
“Our focus was on team defence, it’s the only way to win at this level, and all the guys bought into it. Not a lot of teams would be happy winning games 1-0, 2-0. “
Vyner said he and the other coaches, Mike Gauthier and Sean Daoust and Jarrett Hearn, were confident they could be successful with the team. They’d coached the Midget A2s last year and had exceeded expectations by a wide margin.
“We’d seen a lot of the guys over the summer, and knew them pretty well and so it was a real shock to the system to come out of tryouts and find ourselves placed in Group 2 for placement.
“But it was a great motivator- the league was telling us we were a Tier 2 team. We set a goal of going 7-1 in placement – which we thought we’d need to guarantee a move to Tier 1. We finished 6-1-1 and were moved up, along with three other teams. Once we were Tier 1, we set three more goals: finish in the Top 3, finish with fewer than 5 losses, and win 80% of our sportsmanship points.”
Well they didn’t get 80%, only 67%, but two out of three ain’t bad: they lost just three games. And they finished first.
The team has now set two more goals: get to the Final 4, get to Provincials.
Goal: Cole Demers, Jonathan Donohoe
Defence: Gavin Dunster, Christian Gucina, Andre Margo, James McIntosh, Justin Pouliot, Wyatt Versluis
Forwards: Brett Andrews, Mitchell Bertram, Desi Burgart, Christian Cullen, Spencer McLeod, Shane Terrillon, Alex Uryga, Troy Williams, Justin Wilson, Trevor Wilson.
Coach: Duncan Vyner, Assistants: Mike Gauthier, Sean Daoust, Jarrett Hearn.