Most players in the Juan de Fuca Tier 1 peewee Grizzlies team have been playing and competing together for much of their lives.
While most ups and downs have come and gone, the young hockey players have managed to weather through it in rare fashion. The team finished their regular season and round-robin playoffs undefeated.
Their burst of success this year can be attributed to the abundance of skilled players and their attitude and work ethic, Coach Brian Kowalko said. “This group is really one of those years…They’re just a really well-rounded group of athletes.”
“Going to provincials – it doesn’t happen all that often,” he added.
In regular season Tier 1 league play, the Grizzlies finished with 12 wins and no losses. They went through the playoffs with four straight wins. In the final best-of-three series, the team clinched the provincial spot in game two with a decisive 10-1 win.
Some games this year have been pretty lopsided, manager Kim Stenvig admitted.
Centre Oliver Josephson, 12, first noticed the team getting better in their twice-a-week practices, and said seeing the hard work pay off “has been a lot of fun.”
“It’s pretty cool to share what you’ve done and what you’re gonna do in hockey,” he said.
Left winger Noah Gebicki, 13, said the strong team is “going to do really well in provincials.” He reported confidence in the team’s hard work in the weight room and “dry land” conditioning, and in his coach’s ability to “boil down mistakes and help when we’re not quite there yet.”
The team’s work ethic over the past four years helps sum up their exceptional achievements, Stenvig said. “Doing the extra skating lessons, fitness and conditioning, playing other sports has worked, and they are reaping the rewards,” he said.
Goalie Noah Stenvig, 13, said shots coming in during some of the tighter games kept his role interesting. He said the passion of the core group has him excited for the games ahead. “Probably to go in as underdogs is going to make us want to win even more,” he said.
The team will be facing a host of talented players when they go against five of B.C.’s other best teams during the provincial championships it White Rock. The team will play against Semiahmoo Ravens on opening day this Sunday at 7:15 p.m.
Defenceman Maxime Lavoie, 13, reported the season has been “pretty good” and said he’s looking forward to “having fun with my teammates.” His family has been somewhat in jitters leading up to the provincials, but he said he was looking forward to having success.
He added, “when I’m nervous, and when I get ready, I try to turn that to energy.”