The major bantam Fraser Valley Thunderbirds hosted the Okanagan’s premier hockey program, the Pursuit of Excellence prep team, in preseason action last weekend.
The two teams will be playing in different leagues this season and played a two game exhibition set in Abbotsford.
The T-Birds sprinted out to an early start in the opener, with Thomas Dohms (Abbotsford) finishing off a great pass from Tyler Pretty (Abbotsford). Nathan Prodanuk (Langley) and Jordan Yuan (Langley) also scored as they carried a 3-2 lead into the first intermission.
But ex-NHLer Byron Ritchie’s POE team shook off their road legs to score four unanswered goals in the second, and added two more in the final frame for an 8-3 final.
The rematch was far more competitive.
The T-Birds adjusted to the pace of their opponent and upped their physical play, continually finishing checks. A forecheck sequence initiated by Grayson Pamplin (Aldergrove) served to motivate the team. Chilliwack’s Evan Dyer fed off the momemtum, blasting through on a breakaway that was turned away. Subsequent breakaways by Hayden Hull (Langley) and Dayton Abbott (Chilliwack) were also shut down by the POE goalie.
Chilliwack’s Jason Roth was a standout in the Fraser Valley net.
The team’s defensive structure looked much improved from the previous game, with the team creating defensive zone turnovers and quickly transitioning into fast breaks.
Still, POE skated away with a well-earned 4-0 win.
“We played a much better second game,” said Fraser Valley coach Nathan Martz. “The boys always work hard but we were a little smarter today. It was a great learning experience playing a little higher level of competition. I like that we keep getting better every day, even though the results might not show it.”