The Mustangs’ competitive season is over, but success stories keep rolling in.
Seven players from the Whitehorse rep hockey club have caught the eye of B.C. Hockey scouts this post-season.
“I’m really for happy for the boys,” said Bantam Mustangs head coach Martin Lawrie. “It’s a testament to how hard they’ve worked these last few years. It’s nice to see their individual success.
“To be honest, I think B.C. has missed a couple of (Whitehorse) players still, even though we’ve never had this many go before.”
Five players from this year’s Bantam Mustangs - arguably the best minor hockey team ever to come out of Whitehorse - have been invited to elite showcases.
The Tier 3 Bantam Mustangs opened the season winning a Tier 2 tournament in Richmond, beat numerous Tier 1 teams through the season, and became the first Yukon team ever to win gold at the B.C. Hockey Championships last month on Vancouver Island.
Team captain Joe Stokes was a big part of the team’s success and scouts noticed. His performance on the Mustangs, and on Team Yukon at the Canada Winter Games, earned him an invite to the U16 B.C. Cup later this month in Salmon Arm, B.C. The Cup is an opportunity for the best players from B.C. and Yukon to perform in front of scouts from B.C. Hockey, Hockey Canada, the Western Hockey League and more. It is also a selection camp for an elite provincial camp this summer in Nanaimo.
“In U16 they used to have zone camps and you’d have to go through there,” said Lawrie. “They switched it this year to just an invite only - 120 hockey players straight to Salmon Arm. You had to be seen through the season and invited from there.
“There’s no question in my mind that Joe deserves the opportunity. He owes a little bit of thanks to the success of his team and teammates to ensure he got to play in front of the high performance B.C. scouts.”
Four Mustang teammates prevailed through a regional trial this past weekend in Vanderhoof. Forwards Bryce Anderson, Oscar Burgess, Dylan Cozens and defenceman Brett Walchuk were four of 20 selected from 140 of northern B.C.‘s most talented players to attend the B.C. Best showcase in Richmond next month.
“It’s not a big surprise given how strong that team was this year,” said Carl Burgess, president of the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association. “I think 140 kids were at the tournament in Vanderhoof - it’s a big jamboree tournament and there’s about a dozen evaluators - and at the end of the tournament they select the top 20 to move on.
“All four of them certainly did Whitehorse, our association and Yukon quite proud,” he added. “They were impressive there. It’s quite something to have four of the top 20 in the North moving on.”
The Vanderhoof tryouts consisted of a practice followed by a five-team jamboree tournament. Anderson and Oscar were together on one team and Cozens and Walchuk were together on another. All four registered goals.
“I was confident going to the tryouts - I’ve played a lot of hockey this year,” said Anderson. “Our skill level was pretty good compared to the other players.
“We’ve been playing with each other all year, so we had better passing, we knew where to be on the ice. The evaluators really noticed that.”
While the four Bantam Mustangs were showing their stuff in Vanderhoof, two members of the Female Mustangs were performing at the Female U16 B.C. Cup in Salmon Arm.
Forward Maddie Nicholson and defenceman Cayman Oestreich earned invites to the prestigious event following regional tryouts at the start of the year. During the jamboree tournament this past weekend both players logged goals.
All seven Mustangs players represented Yukon at the Canada Winter Games this past February in Prince George, B.C.
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