A remarkable season came to an end for the Nelson Bantam Leafs on Wednesday night.
In front of a hometown crowd of over 300 people at the Nelson and District Community Complex, the Leafs lost 2-1 to the three-time provincial champs, the Mission Stars, at the BC Hockey Bantam Rep Tier 3 Championship.
The Stars, made up of bigger mostly second-year players, jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period before stalwart Leafs defenceman Kaleb Percival scored with a low blue line snapshot before the period’s end.
The two teams battled back and forth with the smaller but speedier Leafs keeping pace with the hulking Stars through the next two periods.
The Leafs had an edge-of-your-seat chance to tie with only a few minutes left in the third, with the Stars down a man, but simply couldn’t find the net. Shots on goal were 23-20 in favour of Mission.
“The boys left it all out on the ice,” says Leafs coach Pete Quinn. “They won with dignity and most importantly, lost with dignity.”
Up until the final, Nelson had gone 5-0 in the tournament with wins over the Terrace Kermodes, Penticton Vees, Powell River Kings, Dawson Creek Canucks and the Sunshine Coast Blues.
Powell River took the bronze with a 3-2 win over Penticton. Terrace won the Fair Play Award.
Tournament co-organizer Sandy Boyd says the tourney was a resounding success, and well attended throughout the four days.
“We had teams like Sunshine Coast and Terrace stay an extra day because they enjoyed the tournament and town so much,” says Boyd. “We got a lot of help from a lot of people. The entire event went really smoothly and I think folks sincerely enjoyed themselves. I heard a lot of people say the event was a heap of fun. And the hockey was high level.”
For the Leafs, their silver medals signify a fine end to a superb season in which the club captured the West Kootenay Hockey League Tier Three title, reached the finals in every tournament they played in, and won the Penticton Tier Two Tournament earlier this month.
“It was an absolute pleasure coaching such a talented and committed group of young men,” adds Quinn. “I’m proud of them.”