You know how these stories go. For those who were there, Sunday’s Hockey Alberta peewee AA final was, simply, legendary.
Certainly in their own memories, it’ll only grow for the members of the Medicine Hat Hounds.
“That was probably the best peewee game that I’ve seen or been a part of, for sure,” said Hounds coach James King, admittedly still “reeling” Monday from the incredible 2-1, double-overtime win over the Springbank Rockies.
” I think the kids probably won’t really digest it for a little bit, until they’ve played other seasons to compare it to.”
It sure had the right setup. Medicine Hat didn’t lose a game all regular season, only lost once en route to provincials, but in their first game of the championships in Calgary were felled —by the Rockies, who went 3-0-1 to get to the gold medal game.
Certainly not used to losing, the 12- and 13-year-old Hounds players could’ve folded the tent. Instead, they won their next three games by a combined score of 24-7 to earn a rematch with Springbank.
“We just rebooted, we found a way,” said Hounds captain Shane Smith, 13. “We learned from our mistakes and we carried on.”
While bodychecking isn’t part of the game at the peewee level, King got the feeling the referees treated peewee provincials more as a bantam-level event. So it got physical. And his team adapted marvelously.
“One thing we noticed was how tight-checking it was — they were letting the kids play,” said King. “It was a very physical battle, which our kids got more used to as the tournament went on.
“It was tough hockey, a lot of battles along the boards but still a good pace.”
Springbank’s Aidan Larose scored mid-way through the first. But Medicine Hat kept pushing back, helped by King’s mantra of “18 strong.”
“We’ve got three lines of forwards and D that can play against anybody,” explained Smith. “We could play any line against any person who was out there.”
So they started to wear the Rockies down. And mid-way through the third, Gavin Smith (not related to Shane) tied it up.
Meanwhile, Hounds goalie Silas Currie was putting on a clinic.
“Our goalie, Silas, he made some unbelievable saves to keep us in that game,” said King. “(On one play in the third period) he came cross-crease and just made a sprawling save to his left. Just absolutely robbed this kid to keep it a tie game.”
A five-minute overtime solved nothing, but King kept telling his team they were getting stronger as the game went.
True to the 18-strong message, he opened the second overtime period with some younger, fresher players. Including Deegan Kinniburgh.
As King tells it, Kinniburgh forced a turnover in the Springbank zone off the opening faceoff. With a winger coming from the far side he paused as if to pass, then sniped a shot in the top corner so hard the puck banged off the back iron and some players weren’t initially sure if it was a goal.
“We just piled on him. We were so excited,” said Shane Smith, who was on the ice for the game-winner and knew right away. “It was really good.”
It’s believed to be the first peewee AA provincial title won by a Hat team, and certainly the first in recent memory. Many of the players will graduate to the bantam ranks next year, where the South East Athletic Club Tigers made the playoffs.
Who knows what the future holds, but this provincial title is one they’ll be talking about for many years to come.