Two 11-year-olds out of the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association were a driving force for Edmonton’s Northern Alberta All-Stars spring team, the XMen, last week in Canmore, Alta.
Right wing Dylan Cozens and centre Bryce Anderson helped the XMen team win gold at the Top Guns AAA Tournament.
“When we came into the tournament, I knew we’d at least be in the top-three and we’d have a good chance at winning it,” said Anderson. “The whole team – we’re all good players. There wasn’t any all-star and there wasn’t any terrible player – they were all good players.”
“It was fun,” added Cozens.
The XMen went 3-0-1 in the tournament’s round robin before defeating Edmonton Mercurys 8-2 in the semifinal and Calgary’s Wolf Pack Wings 6-3 in the final.
“It felt really good,” said Anderson. “As soon as we won I felt like part of the team.”
Cozens, who led the tournament in goals and points, was named a tournament All-Star. He scored 13 goals and finished with 22 points.
He was also named a “Top Gun” in a 10-4 win over the Edmonton Mercurys in the round-robin. In the game, Cozens scored four goals and had two assists.
He also scored two goals and had an assist in the 6-3 gold-medal winning game.
“One was an empty-netter,” Cozens pointed out. “The first one I got, it was four-on-four, and I was coming down on a two-on-one. I shot it and it was going five-hole but the saved it – it hit his stick, went up over him, and went into the net.”
Anderson finished the tournament with two goals and six assists for seventh overall in points. He was also named a “Top Gun” in a tournament game.
Anderson let his presence known early on, scoring the XMen’s second goal of the tournament in an 8-1 win over Foothills South Falcons. Cozens scored two goals and got an assist in the game’s third period.
“I like playing peewee a lot, but it was good playing a tournament in my own age group,” said Anderson.
Both Yukoners played up an age group on the Whitehorse Peewee A Mustangs rep team this past season. Anderson’s father Blaine feels playing in an older age group really improved their skills, as did the hard-driving Mustangs coach Jake Jirousek.
“That was a huge part of it,” said Blaine. “The number-one reason was their coaching this year – Jake Jirousek. He was instrumental in their development.”
“He gave us hard drills to do so it made us better,” said Cozens.
“He pushes you hard, no matter what your skill level is,” said Bryce.
The Peewee A Mustangs captured silver at the Fort St. John Flyers Peewee Tier 2 Tournament in Fort St. John, B.C., in November.
“It was a little bit different (playing on the Xmen) because me and Bryce played on the same line all year and we had different systems and stuff,” said Cozens.
The two Mustangs ended up playing with Edmonton after Blaine saw a website that said the XMen team was looking for two spring players. The two Whitehorse players went down to Edmonton, practiced with the team and played an exhibition game, before getting picked up.
They then traveled with the XMen to play at the B.C. Challenge Cup over the May long weekend in Burnaby, B.C. The team took fourth after losing to the eventual gold-medal winning team in the semifinal.
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