Riding an incredible 11 game undefeated streak that dates back to early December, the South Delta Bantam Warriors hockey team capped its amazing season by capturing the playoff banner with a 6-2 win over Langley.
"Playing in the top group of the C division has been very challenging at times but these kids really stepped up and found a truly intense chemistry that made them tough to play against," said Warriors coach Ken Simms.
After a successful run at the local Party in Da House tournament, (40-1) Simms says the team really gelled.
"That tournament was really intense because they're playing against their friends and schoolmates, so the energy level is very high long before they get to the rink," he said.
By winning the popular tournament, the Warriors earned the right to compete in a winner-take-all game versus North Delta's tournament winner for the coveted Delta Cup.
While the playoff game was certainly exciting - with great performances from affiliate player Quinn Cole and captain Dayton Wilson - it paled in comparison to the charged atmosphere of the Delta Cup game.
A previous outing between these two clubs resulted in a 13-6 win for the Warriors but unfortunately they also lost key defenseman Nathan Simms for the rest of the season due to a concussion. It was no surprise that this would be an all out battle.
North Delta wanted to make good and they drew first blood midway through the opening period. Spectacular goaltending by Kris Hothi kept the Warriors in the game until the tenacious play of Evan Khara evened things up with the help of co-captains Wyatt Bates and Wilson to end the first.
Midway through the second, a determined Riley Phillips scored a beautiful unassisted goal to put the Warriors up by one.
An outstanding puck-stopping performance by international student Polina Yurchenko, applying her vast technical skills, proved to be the difference maker in the second as North Delta was unable to capitalize on many golden opportunities.
The Warriors, on the other hand, couldn't stay out of the sin bin. Playing shorthanded for a whopping 14 of the 30 minutes, it was the strong defensive efforts from Connor Duchek, Bates, Phillips and alternate captain Austin Herauf that kept South Delta alive.
Just one minute into the third a textbook breakout by Will Robinson and Carter Cooke led to a goal by Wilson to widen the gap to two. More penalties meant that the Warriors played most of the remaining time with three skaters. Jack Harris and alternate captain Josh Dubois took turns helping the defensive unit fight off everything North Delta threw at them. A beautiful set up by Henry Stewart and alternate captain Trevor Poisson fed a breaking Wilson who tallied his second of the night and the Warriors were up by three.
With less than a minute to play, and a thirst for another goal, Phillips finished the game like only he can. He scored one of the prettiest goals of the season and then proceeded to take a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"It was not the smartest thing to do," said Simms. "It incensed our opponent. The energy he brings to the team and to every game is sometimes tough to control. But it's also the energy that lifted this team to play at the level they did all year, so I admire his character and so do his teammates."
When asked to elaborate, Warriors assistant coaches Brent Harris and Brad Herauf remained quiet on the issue while manager Tracy Duchek replied, "no comment." Team trainer Bruce Robinson said, "nobody was hurt on the play."
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