The depth of Delta Hockey Academy’s Bantam program was on full display over the holidays.
While DHA’s two Bantam Prep teams were busy at the Pat Quinn Classic in Burnaby, the Varsity squad enjoyed an outstanding run at the 37th annual Richmond International Bantam Midget Hockey Tournament.
The Wild capped a memorable week at the Richmond Ice Centre with a 6-3 win over Port Moody A1 in the Bantam Tier One championship game on New Year’s Eve. It’s the second time in three years DHA has captured this division and was further evidence of why the South Delta Secondary School based academy is considered among the best in Western Canada.
This is the first year DHA has iced two Prep teams at the key 13-and-14-year-old age group. Delta had dominated the Varsity level to the point where both its entries squared off in the Canadian School Sport Hockey League title game a year ago with a combined 44-5-1 record.
The program is attracting talent from throughout B.C. and beyond. DHA’s Bantam Prep teams feature just two Delta players. The Varsity squad does have eight homegrown products and is predominately a first-year team with 15 2004 born players.
The Wild is more than holding its own in the CSSHL Bantam Varsity Division with a 14-3-1 record. The success carried over into the RIBMHT.
“The academy has done an amazing job right from the top helping to recruit kids to the program,” said Wild head coach Mike Grant. “This is my first-year with this team and they have brought me some good players, some that I have never seen before.”
The Richmond tourney was a nice change-up from the regular season which sees the Wild get a steady diet of the same seven other academy teams in its division. Delta played six games in as many days and against a different opponent each time.
A 3-1-0 round-robin record included wins over California’s Golden State Elite (4-1), Coquitlam Chiefs Bantam A1 (6-3) and the Alaska All-Stars. Ironically, the team’s only loss of the tournament was a 2-1 setback to the South Delta A1 Storm.
The Wild still moved onto the semi-finals as the No. 2 seed and toppled Juan de Fuca 5-1 on Saturday at Minoru Arenas. That set the stage for the championship game against Port Moody that edged Coquitlam 5-4 in its semi-final tilt to remain the only unbeaten team (3-0-2) in the 10-team tier.
DHA notched a pair of second period goals to open up a 3-1 lead. Twice, Port Moody pulled within one in the third period before the Wild iced the championship with a pair of empty net tallies.
Goaltender Harrison Meneghin earned player of the game honours for his fine play, especially in the third period when the Wild ran into penalty trouble.
“With 15 first-year players it was a great learning experience for our guys and I couldn’t believe how hard they battled,” added Grant. “You can see we are not the biggest team in the tournament but they battled and it’s nice to do this so close to home where all the families can come out and watch.
“Six games with six different opponents. Any time you can get that it’s great and every game was close. It was great hockey for us and we couldn’t have asked for better competition.”
It will be a busy second half of the season for the Wild with a tournament later this month in Prince George and also a trip to Phoenix in February — on top of several more CSSHL Showcase Weekends.
The trio of Caleb Reimer, Niall Crocker and Nathan Macpherson Ridgewell led the Wild in tournament scoring.
The tournament roster also included: Henry Smith, Luke Chakrabarti, Quinn Ridley, Taylor Chiu, Brady Estabrook, Easton Kovacs, Sheldyn Scott, Nicholas Kovacs, Logan Joslin, Ty Brassington, Tye Hemenway, Kai Clayton, Kyle Kalamaras, Matteo Speranza and goalie Ben Grahame.
The South Delta Storm proved just how competitive RIBMHT Bantam Tier One Division was. Although they didn’t reach the playoff round, the local squad went 1-2-1 with both losses being by a single goal to Coquitlam (5-4) and Golden State (2-1). South Delta also battled Alaska to a 4-4 tie. The Storm own a 8-6-0 record in the PCAHA Flight 2.