U13 #1 Thunder win silver at hockey provincials

Joe McWilliams and Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

The U13 #1 Slave Lake Thunder made it to the final in the Alberta Tier 2 Hockey Provincials this year. They fought hard, but had to settle for silver.

From March 22 to 24, the Thunder hosted the provincials. In the final on Sunday, the Thunder face Medicine Hat.

Thunder player Benjamin Stone made the first goal of the game in the first two minutes. However, things went down hill from there, with Medicine Hat scoring three times in the first and twice in the second.

Early in the third things looked like they might turn around. In quick succession, Drake Conrad and Eric Martin scored, causing the Medicine Hat team to call a time out.

It must have been a good pep talk, because no matter how hard the Thunder tried to keep the puck on the other teams side of the rink, they didn’t score again. Medicine Hat got two more goals. Slave Lake lost 7 – 3, for the silver medal.

To get to the final, the Thunder had to win two do-or-die games – one Saturday afternoon and the other one on Sunday morning in the semi-final vs. the Vegreville Wranglers. They got by Strathcona Warriors 6 – 4 in the Saturday game, and were up against the team that had beaten them in the league final a couple of weeks earlier.

Sixty minutes of regulation time solved nothing. The score was 3 – 3 and overtime came next. The building was packed and very noisy. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

With 16 seconds left in the overtime, Eric Martin banged in a loose puck on the powerplay, with Drake Conrad and Benjamin Stone assisting. The place went nuts.

The Thunder had taken a 3 – 2 lead with about nine minutes to go, but they couldn’t hold onto it. With under two minutes left and a man advantage, Vegreville controlled the puck from a faceoff in the Slave Lake end and got the tying goal. Wyatt Wentworth had a chance to win it on a clear breakaway, but Wrangler goalie Lennox Carrick was up to the challenge.

In Saturday’s pivotal game, the Thunder drew first blood, with Eric Martin scoring just 47 seconds in. Dominic Baxter followed that up with his first of two shorthanded goals to give Slave Lake a 2 – 0 lead. But it was too good to last, and the Warriors struck back, scoring three of the next four goals to tie it up at three going into the third period.

The Thunder looked pretty shaky at times, as the third period got underway, and a Strathcona lead looked very likely to occur, but then something weird happened. While killing a penalty, Drake Conrad fired the puck in from around centre ice and it went in! The place went nuts.

But wouldn’t you know it; the Warriors turned the tables and got a long-distance shortie of their own to tied the game again. Then it was really game on, with everything on the line. Some hockey moms couldn’t watch. Maybe dads too.

With just under five minutes left, and Slave Lake once again a man down, Isabella Normand pounced on a loose puck in her own end and chipped it ahead to Baxter. He looked up, didn’t see anyone between him and the Strathcona goalie and took off, legs pumping. But a Warrior player was with him, harassing him with his stick all the way. Somehow, Baxter was able control the puck and sweep it under the goalie to give his team the lead back.

Big relief in the building, but still 4 ½ minutes to go.

As it turned out, the Thunder played a pretty good game of shutting things down after that, and Conrad iced it with an empty-netter with 10 seconds to go.

The Thunder’s first game was a 6 – 4 win, over Grande Prairie. Conrad was the star, scoring four goals for the Thunder. Saturday night’s game vs. Airdrie was a bit of a blowout – 9 – 3 for the southern Alberta team, which was busy rolling through the round robin with no serious challenge. But they lost 4 – 2 to Medicine Hat in the other semi.

Slave Lake U13 #1 Thunder are Provincial Tier 2 Hockey silver medalists.
Standing: Jake Courtorielle, Assistant Coach Todd Laing, Assistant Coach Mike Martin, Ryland Eben-Ebenau, Maddax Laing, Eric Martin, Ethan Albert, Kade Morrison-Cardinal, Ben Stone, Drake Conrad, Head Coach Russell Baxter, and Assistant Coach Ronnie Lukan.
Kneeling: Dane Lukan, Wyatt Wentworth, Dom Baxter, Addison Cunningham, Abdul Mouallem, Isabella Normand, and Mckenna Ghostkeeper.
Lying: Zachary Gallant and Noah Eben.

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