Just over three months ago, head coach Peter Hay talked about how other teams had used their experiences at a prestigious invitation-only hockey tournament as a springboard to a great second half.
The Fraser Valley Thunderbirds can now add their names to that list.
It has been a season of new program successes for the major midget hockey league team and the latest accomplishment is capturing the BC Major Midget Hockey League championship banner.
“It is a surreal feeling,” Hay said on Monday morning, the day after his team returned from Prince George with a pair of victories against the defending champion Cariboo Cougars.
The Thunderbirds won 5-2 and 4-2 to take the best-of-three series 2-0.
The team has won four straight playoff games — they are 6-1 this post-season — and they host the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes this weekend in the Pacific Regional Championship. The Hurricanes are the Alberta champions and the victor of this best-of-three series will advance to the Telus Cup, Canada’s national midget championship.
Hay said his team’s lone playoff loss was a major catalyst in the team’s subsequent loss.
“The best thing that happened to us was losing game one of that series because that first game, the (Vancouver Northwest) Giants just came out pounding us,” he said. “That loss taught us what we needed to do to win.
“Everyone bought in and that was the key turning point in the playoffs.”
Against the Cougars — who had beat Fraser Valley three out of four times during the regular season — Matthew Konrad (Abbotsford) led the way with two goals and an assist in the 5-2 win.
Dylan Stoltz (Abbotsford), Jake Mulder (Abbotsford) and Will Dow-Kenny (Abbotsford) had the other goals while Gage Goncalves (Mission) set up three goals.
Jacob Wright (Langley) also had a pair of assists,
Fraser Valley’s special teams were the difference in game two as they struck for three power-play goals in the 4-2 victory. Justin Plett (Abbotsford) scored twice, including the game-winner.
Travis Halladay (Chilliwack) had a goal and an assist, Stoltz scored the other and Mulder added a pair of assists.
Dawson Pelletier (Hope) got the call in goal for both games.
The Thunderbirds had lost in overtime in late December at the prestigious Mac’s Midget Hockey Tournament to the eventual tournament champions.
The takeaway from the tournament was that Hay saw his team take their game to another level.
And that continued in January and February, as Fraser Valley placed third in the league and then won their first-ever playoff series.
Hay said he shared a quote from NHL legend Wayne Gretzky with his team about winning in the playoffs.
The message from the Great One was the team with the most ice bags at the end of the series is the team that can barely hold the Stanley Cup up.
“We all have to sacrifice and we have to put our bodies on the line, and every player has,” he said. “We are full of injuries, we are full of soreness, we have guys playing with bruises and that is really how you win these games.”
Hurricanes stand in T-Birds way
Lethbridge finished atop their division in the Alberta Major Midget Hockey League with a record of 24-5-6.
The ’Canes also outscored their competition 136-75.
And in the playoffs, Lethbridge is 10-2.
“They are fast, young, talented and skilled,” Hay said of his early scouting report. “It is probably going to be a battle of speed and skill (against) our age and strength.”
As of Monday afternoon, the Thunderbirds were still trying to secure a venue for the best-of-three series.