Coming off a gold medal victory in the Tier II division of the Mainland Cup just weeks ago, the Schnitzer Steel-sponsored Coastal Shredders maintained their intense weekend practice sessions at the Comox Valley Sports Centre, incorporating a new fitness training program offered by Bodynetix Fitness Centre in Courtenay.
The program taught players how to train in an intense yet safe manner with the intention of improving overall strength, endurance and agility in preparation for their second tournament of the short spring season – the highly anticipated Challenge Cup.
This popular Lower Mainland tournament features some of the most promising young minor hockey talent from across Canada and the United States. Knowing how hard his team prepared, and sensing their readiness, head coach Greg Fox registered the Shredders as a Tier I AAA team to provide his players the opportunity to compete at the highest level against some of the best young talent in North America.
The tournament featured three round-robin games that dictated whether the Shredders would place as a Pool A or Pool B team. Their journey commenced perfectly against a powerful Vancouver Selects Blue squad when the Shredders scored the opening goal a mere 10 seconds into the game.
The Selects Blue scored the next two in the latter part of the first period to grab the lead. Halfway through the second period, Gabe Schovanek assisted on a Jalen Price tally to knot the game at two, but five unanswered goals by an imposing Vancouver team sank the Shredders 7-2.
Their second game was an evenly played match against the B.C. Lightning. The Lightning struck quickly with three goals in the first 10 minutes, and only Cody Savey was able to respond before the end of the first frame.
The Lightning scored two more in the second period to take a commanding 5-1 lead into an intermission that in hindsight could be considered a pivotal turning point in the tournament. The Shredders seemed to become more settled and confident as a Tier I team following the second intermission, outdoing their opponents throughout the remainder of the tournament.
Their renewed success began by outscoring the Lightning 3-2 in the third period, including a beauty by forward Logan Nijhoff to close out the Shredders’ scoring.
The third and final round robin game was an exhilarating overtime victory over the B.C. Blackhawks. Nijhoff opened the scoring 10 minutes in, and a second Shredder goal shortly after doubled their lead.
A lone goal by the Blackhawks in the second gave the Shredders the slightest lead after two, and the Blackhawks tied the game early in the third. The Shredders regained the lead midway through the final frame, but a late Blackhawks’ goal with just under two minutes on the clock sent the game to overtime.
Two minutes into the extra stanza, defenceman Matthew Ubriaco made a nifty pass from the corner boards to Price in the slot, who slid his own rebound under the sprawling goaltender to give the Shredders their first win – in thrilling fashion. Jackson Dyke, who typically plays defence, was asked to play forward and performed very well. Garrett Hunter continued to play a strong physical game and move the puck efficiently out of his own zone.
Because an overtime victory was worth only two points, the Shredders were relegated to Pool B and scheduled to play a semifinal game against the B.C. Blackhawks. In a well-played and tight game from start to finish, the Shredders battled hard to score a goal in each period, including a Nijhoff tally early in the final period. Goaltender Mattias Smith faced numerous high-quality chances early and often, and his stellar play unmistakably helped lead the Shredders to a 3-1 victory and an opportunity to play for the gold medal in Pool B.
The All Peace Capitals propelled themselves into the gold medal game against a rapidly improving and increasingly confident Coastal Shredder group following their own semifinal OT victory. Schovanek assisted on an opening goal by Savey late in the first to give the Shredders the lead.
Schovanek scored early in the second to increase the lead to two. Nijhoff assisted on a Price goal to give the Shredders a commanding 3-0 lead. A late goal by the Capitals was far from enough, as the Shredders won the Pool B gold medal convincingly by a final score of 4-1.
Coach Fox wanted to provide his team with an opportunity to play at the top level, and was very pleased with how his players responded to the challenge. “The boys played for each other and proved to themselves that they could compete at the highest level. We as a coaching staff are very proud of these accomplishments.”
The coaches, parents and players thank Schnitzer Steel for their sponsorship, as well as Chris and Kendra from Bodynetix for training the players and helping to prepare them for the Challenge Cup. Once again it appears as though hard work does pay off.
– Coastal Shredders