With a convincing 6-3 win over the Tri-Cities Predators, the Kelowna peewee Rockets laid claim to the 2017 B.C. Hockey female A championship last week in Surrey.
The Rockets went undefeated (5-0-1) at the seven-team provincial tournament to finish atop the round-robin standings, capturing the B.C. banner.
For the Rockets, their path to becoming provincial champs started over a year ago with a season that saw only a handful of wins and a bagful of disappointing losses.
This season, however, was a different story.
“This is a group of girls that are on their way to being great leaders both in the rink and out in the community,” said Rockets head coach Kevin England. “They have worked so hard all year and it was great to see them accomplish the goal they set way back in October.”
The early part of the game was dominated by the Rockets. In the first few minutes, Taylar Janicki scored the first goal with a banked shot off a Predator defenceman’s stick. Then a shot from the top of the face-off circle by Camille Arellano went top corner over the Preds goalie’s glove. In the last half of the first, the Predators hit the gas and battled back to tie the score 2-2.
In previous meetings with the Predators, the Rockets had won two of three games, and earlier that day, the Rockets finished with a 2-2 tie against the Richmond Ravens, making the tension in the stands and on the bench was clearly visible going into the 2nd.
“We had gotten away from our systems against Richmond,” confesses England, “so we revisited them and spoke about how moments like these don’t come by very often. All season long, we talked about having fun out there and so we reminded them about enjoying the moment.”
In the opening minutes, both teams came out strong with lots of end-to-end action, but both goalies held their ground. Finally,Tyra Rocha put the Rockets up by one with a wrister from the high slot area that beat the Preds goalie blocker side.
Rockets rookie Goalie, Ally Wark, then fought hard in her crease and stymied the Predators offense. With a second goal by Janicki, the frame ended with the Rockets leading by two.
The Predators came out strong in the opening of the third. Both teams fought hard along the boards and the Rockets defense were tested by continuous Predator rushes and hard-fought skirmishes in front of Wark. Tri-Cities persistence was rewarded with a third goal about six minutes into frame.
It looked like the Predators were on the verge of tying it up again. England, however, believes in his players. “This team learned a lot last year. They faced a lot of obstacles, so they’ve learned about sticking together as a team and supporting each other this season.”
Re-energized from their third goal, the Predators pressed hard in the second half of the third. Wark again shut the door, inspiring her teammates to not give up. The Rockets dug in and started winning the small battles in the corners, which were rewarded by two insurance goals by team captain Jada Leung and rookie forward Emma Chater.
When the buzzer went to end the game, a lot of emotion came from the girls. “One of the things that surprised me was the way they all took time to thank their coaches and parents,” said England, “while celebrating a moment in their hockey lives that most dream about, they had the presence to thank those who supported their success.”