With the Okanagan Mainline Hockey Association playoffs looming, Kelowna’s bantam Tier 1 team had one of its best experiences of the season last weekend, representing Kelowna at the International Children’s Games as the host hockey club.
And even before the team captured the bronze medal with a come-from-behind win over Windsor, Ontario, the Paragon Pharmacy Rockets had done their job as the host club.
Prior to its game against Darmstadt, Germany, Kelowna gifted the over-matched young hockey team from Germany with Kelowna Minor Hockey jerseys before advancing to the playoff round with a convincing win.
“We had an official come into our dressing room and compliment us on our sportsmanship after that game,” said Kelowna head coach Tom Watters.
“From my perspective I thought the games were great. I thought the kids had a great time. Our overall experience was fabulous.”
After losing to Windsor in the round robin portion of the hockey tournament, Kelowna and Windsor put on an entertaining back and forth game in the battle for bronze.
Each team held two goal leads but in the end it was the Rockets who would come out on top 6-5 and claim bronze.
The private academy Pursuit of Excellence defeated West Kelowna for the gold medal with the bantam Warriors earning the silver.
(For more on the Warriors see our Westside sports section. For more on the P.O.E. read Parnell’s column No Boundaries).
The win should provide a measure of momentum for Kelowna heading into the OMAHA playoffs where they will play West Kelowna, a tough and equal opponent as witnessed by the season series split evenly with each team winning once and tying once.
‘I love the opportunity to play them,” said Watters.
“That’s a team we have had great games with. They’re all one-goal games. It should be exciting hockey and hopefully we can find a way to shut down a couple of their guys and capitalize when we get the chances.”
The other series will see first place Kamloops take on the winner of a series between Vernon and Penticton.
Kelowna will continue its season after the playoffs attending tournaments in Port Coquitlam and in Kamloops. Watters said the club has developed well over the course of the season.
“I’m pleased with the development of the team this year,” he said. “We’re a little undersized compared to a lot of the opposition but we’re certainly not under-desired.
The kids work hard and they are not afraid to go up against the bigger teams.”