Bantams do well at provincials; just miss playoffs

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Slave Lake Bantam Thunder put in a good showing at the provincial ‘B’ hockey tournament in Springbank this past weekend. They won two, lost one and tied one in four round-robin games. It wasn’t quite enough to qualify them for play on Sunday.
One of the teams the Thunder beat – Carstairs – ended up provincial champions.
The Thunder were competitive in every game, as they have been for pretty much the entire season. They started off by thumping the Edmonton KC Sabres 7 – 1 on Friday morning. That same afternoon they lost 4 – 3 to Marwayne-Kitscoty.
Saturday morning the Thunder beat Carstairs 7 – 3. The Saturday afternoon contest with host Springbank Rockies ended in a 3 – 3 draw. That gave them five points in four games – not bad at all, but they needed six.
“This shows you what a big feat making “Playoff Sunday” at provincials takes,” says head coach Richard Chemago. “The round robin is quick, immensely exhausting (four games in two days). However (it) also shows you that you are never out of the fight; if you fight right to the end.”
Scoring details from the first game are as follows: Joshua Beaver and Aiden Blocka scored in the first period for Slave Lake. Landon Robinson and Jacob Plouffe added a couple more in the second to give the Thunder a 4 – 0 lead after two periods.
In the third, Robinson’s second made it 5 – 0. Plouffe and Ethan Syslak scored late goals to make it 7 – 1.
Against Marwayne-Kitscoty, the Thunder kept it close throughout, but never led. On the other hand, they never trailed by more than one. Last goal won, and that went to the other team. Scoring for Slave Lake were Jacob Hartman, Plouffe and Nick Carpenter. Final score: 4 – 3.
Calling it a “lost opportunity,” Chemago says, “we let them hang around, not taking advantage of opportunities.”
The Thunder started Game 3 against Carstairs with two early penalties, but paid no price for them. Then they scored three straight to lead 3 – 0 after one period. Blocka, Plouffe and William Chemago scored the Slave Lake goals.
Beaver led things off in the second with his second goal of the tournament. Carstairs then scored two straight before Matt LaFrance got one late for Slave Lake on the powerplay. Score 5 – 2 Thunder after two.
In the third, after Carstairs failed to score on early powerplays, Chemago scored on the PP. Carstairs replied to that and Chemago finished things off with a goal with 23 seconds remaining. Final score 7 – 3 Slave Lake.
It was Carstairs’ only loss of the tournament, Chemago says. “It was decisive and left everyone in Springbank in a buzz.”
That set up the vital contest with the host team. The winner would advance. A tie nobody had in mind, probably, but that’s what happened. Slave Lake led 2 – 1 after one period on goals by Syslak and Dickson. Springbank tied it in the second.
Josh Beaver made it 3 – 2 for Slave Lake 5:49 in. Springbank tied it 10 minutes later and that was that.
Chemago says 18 minutes in penalties hurt his team. They also had a goal called back. Both teams ended with 2-1-1 records, but Springbank advanced on the strength of goals scored.
Chemago says he’s very proud of the group for what it has accomplished this season.
“They are fine young men; they are leaders and they are shakers.”
The focus for the Bantams now shifts back to ‘A’ league playoffs. They lead Westlock one game to none in their best-of-three final. Game 2 was about to start last Tuesday when power-supply problems shut down the arena in Slave Lake. The series resumes this week on Tuesday, 7:00 p.m.

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