If recent play is any indication, the host Juan de Fuca Grizzlies may have some momentum heading into this weekend’s B.C. Tier 2 peewee hockey championships at Westhills Arena.
An 8-4 victory over Cowichan Valley on March 2 in Chemainus, the Grizzlies’ first of the year over that team, illustrated the contined improvement shown by the Colwood-based squad. The last few head-to-head games were close, but as Grizzlies forward Riely Wiens points out, this time “we wanted it more.”
That hunger will be a much desired characteristic as the Grizzlies get set to host the top Tier 2 peewee teams in the province starting Sunday (March 16).
The Grizzlies, the second-level peewee group in Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey – its healthy registration numbers made it a Tier 1-level club for the first time this season – play against the top teams from many smaller associations in league play.
That scenario will play out again at provincials, with large mainland clubs such as Burnaby represented by a second team, while Trail, Fort St. John and Williams Lake and others sending their top pee wees.
Grizzlies team captain Connor McClelland figures his team has improved a lot since the start of the season. He’s anxious to see how his team will do against such a range of competition.
“I’m excited to see how our team plays and how we work together,” agrees Matt Grant, one of a number of Grizzlies players playing in his second provincial tournament.
“At the beginning of the season we were more selfish, trying to do it all ourselves. But as the year went on we started passing better.”
Head coach Jim Grant, Matt’s dad, says realistically, the Grizzlies will be competitive with “probably five teams” in the tournament.
“Whether we win or lose, that’s not the point,” he says.
“We’ll go out and give it our best shot whenever we step out on the ice. We may be hosting, but we can still feel good about being there.”
Riely Wiens remembers how relatively few parents made the trip with his team to last year’s provincials, and how some players got a bit homesick being away from home for nearly a week. “I think we kind of have the advantage there (this year),” he says.
The visiting teams arrive Friday and Saturday, but all see their first round robin action Sunday. Juan de Fuca plays the feature game that night at 8 p.m. following the opening ceremonies at 7:30. Teams play three games each, with the top two in each pool advancing to the championship round. The gold medal game happens next Wednesday at 8 p.m.
• 2014 Juan de Fuca Tier 2 Grizzlies roster for the B.C. championships:
4 William Perrier D
5 Dylan Parker F
7 Carson Echlin D
8 John Ross D
9 Ryan Blundell F
10 Jayden Cull D
16 Riely Wiens D
17 Joshua Eden F
18 Jackson Estey F
19 Connor McClelland F
21 Zackery Whittaker D
23 Jeremy Smith F
33 Ryan Dusseault G
44 Matthew Grant F
66 Adam Spandli F
87 Kirk Whittaker F
89 Jayden Polard G
Hazara Chahal Injured
Head Coach Jim Grant
Asst. Coach Bryan Grant
Manager Doug Estey