A late-game goal from the Kamloops Junior Blazers ended playoff hopes for the Peewee A Mustangs at the Abbotsford Minor Peewee Icebreaker Tournament over the weekend in B.C.
The Whitehorse representative team, competing in Tier 3, needed at least a tie to advance. The Mustangs fought back from down 2-0 to tie the game before allowing a goal with five minutes left.
A win over the North Shore Winter Club, instead of a 3-3 tie, earlier in the tournament also would have put the Whitehorse team in a spot for the playoffs.
“It was basically the tie against North Shore or not tying or winning against Kamloops that cost us,” said Mustangs co-head coach Martin Lawrie.
In what was their first tournament of the season, the Mustangs came out strong with a 7-2 thumping of the Ridge Meadows Rustlers on Friday. The Mustangs began Saturday with a 5-0 shutout win over the hosting Abbotsford Hawks, with goalie Ethan Vanderkley giving a solid performance between the pipes.
“We performed better than I was expecting, to be honest,” said Lawrie. “Our second-years were really strong, which was nice to see. The first-years upped their game each game as well. They improved quite a bit.
“As for the end-goal being a legitimate shot at provincial (championships in March), we see where we need work. We need to work with our first-years and make sure they’re ready to contribute come provincial time.”
Friday’s opener against the Rustlers went from a close battle to a one-sided thwacking in the span of a few minutes. Tied 2-2 early in the second period, the Mustangs scored five unanswered goals in seven and a half minutes before a scoreless third period.
Mustangs forward Dylan Cozens was named his team’s Most Valuable Player with three goals and an assist. Also scoring were Dylan Kindervater, Isaac Williamson, Payton Fobe, and Joe Stokes, who also had two assists. Bryce Anderson and Niall Lawrie had two assists each.
In the 3-3 tie with the North Shore Winter Club, who went on to lose in the final against Salmon Arm, Cozens had two goals and an assist, and Anderson also scored. Stokes racked up three assists.
Whitehorse goalie Cole Smith was named game MVP.
“Cole Smith, who is a rookie goalie with us, had a really strong game,” said Martin. “He played well in the first game (against Ridge Meadows) as well – he played a period.”
Saturday morning’s shutout over the Hawks saw the contribution of a few first-year Peewee Mustangs. Rookies Jarod McCulloch, Kailem Letto and Fobe each had an assist – Fobe had two.
Scoring for the Mustangs were Stokes, Niall Lawrie, Johnny Elias with two, and first-year player Josh Austin.
“Another first-year, Jarod McCullock, improved every game, as did most of them,” said Martin. “He really jumped his game up as the tournament went on, which is nice to see.
“The other first-year who really impressed was Josh Austin. He had a good tournament. He’s a tough little hockey player.”
Stokes and Cozens scored in the Mustangs’ final game, against Kamloops, Saturday afternoon.
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