The BC Major Midget League is sorting out suspensions after a brawl broke out at the end of Saturday afternoon’s Kootenay Ice-Cariboo Cougars game at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
The buzzer had sounded on an 8-2 Cariboo decision and when teams flooded onto the ice to recognize their goaltenders, the league’s penalty minute leader Tre Potskin crosschecked an unsuspecting Ice player. Kootenay captain Justin Post stepped in and with all the players on the surface at one time, at least seven spirited fights broke out and almost all the players engaged in some way in the melee.
“The game had ended… it caught both coaches by surprise,” said Ice head coach Mario DiBella.
“We were doing our best from the bench to get our players off of the ice. Notwithstanding jumping onto the ice and becoming part of the fracas, I don’t know what more we could have done.”
DiBella is disappointed by the fact the considerably older and bigger Cariboo team were the clear instigators in the brawl. The end of the game was captured on video and is currently posted on YouTube.
“It’s upsetting to me,” said DiBella. “Particularly when I see 15-year-old players on our team getting pounded on by 17-year-old players from Prince George that were the aggressors in the altercation.”
DiBella said the players on the Prince George-based team were the pursuers in the brawl and three of his players had their helmets ripped off by their more experienced opponents.
Brawl catalyst Potskin currently has 148 penalty minutes on the season, 14 more than Valley West Hawk defenceman Royce Rossignol who has 134 minutes in the box. Dane Elphicke is the Ice leader in penalty minutes with 70.
The league is currently working on suspensions from the incident.
The Cougars sit second in the 11-team league, while the Ice are last.
On Sunday morning, the teams locked horns again. Though the game did not include any shenanigans, the Ice were again on the wrong end of an 8-3 score.
“They are a very good team, they move the puck really well,” DiBella said of the Cougars. “They are a big, physical team and they are a challenge. At times we played with them and at other times we capitulated and allowed them to take the puck to our net and that obviously ended with lopsided scores.”
Despite only having three wins in 30 games, DiBella said his team has made big improvements over the course of the season.
“We take pride in our team’s work ethic,” said the veteran Nelson-based coach. “Many of these players come from small associations where they were the big fish in the small pond. Now they are seeing what it’s like to play against the best of the best in their age category throughout the province.”
The league consists of players aged 15 to 17. Each year, the league moves many players onto junior hockey. Two recognizable young Nelson players — Isaac MacLeod (Boston College) and Dryden Hunt (Regina Pats) — played for the Ice as 15-year-olds.
“They have to internalize and understand that this is about their development. They have an opportunity to learn and keep positive,” DiBella said of the fact the Ice are often put at a disadvantage due to having to draw from a smaller population base.
“It’s a tremendous league that provides unequalled opportunity for players that would otherwise not aspire having the chance to move onto junior or major junior roles.”
The Ice travel to Victoria this coming weekend for a two-game set with the South Island Royals.
The Ice return to the Kootenays February 9 and 10 for a set with the Vancouver NE Chiefs. The Chiefs line-up features league leading scorer Matthew Barzal, the 15-year-old phenom who has created a lot buzz in the hockey world.
To see the YouTube video of the brawl click here.