By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
The Atom Fiesta tournament on the weekend ended with gripping excitement and tears of disappointment for the local South Okanagan Sun Devils.
Gold medals and the Canusa cup were virtually within their grasp, but in the end, they were defeated 6-5 by Cranbrook with a minute remaining in a second period of overtime.
After such a strong regular season that ended with a championship in their playoff tournament on March 11, to win silver this weekend seemed a disappointment for the youngsters, parents and coaches who’d worked so hard.
The Sun Devils lost to Cranbrook 8-6 in an earlier game in the round robin, but they hoped the final game Sunday would be different.
For Nina Ruck, who chaired the fiesta, and had twin boys on the Sun Devils, it was bittersweet.
“The fiesta went really well,” she said, acknowledging the disappointment of losing the final. “But all in all, everybody had a great time… I had nothing but great comments and parents were positive.”
Fourteen teams participated in the event, but Ruck said she’s already heard from about nine who want to return, and there are other teams that didn’t participate, but would like to.
“We could definitely expand next year,” she said. “So I’m hoping for a really good turnout next year and maybe adding a day.”
For her boys, Liam and Markus, who are among the top players on the team with a number of other talented youngsters, the outcome was very disappointing, she said.
“I don’t think they’re going to be talking for a while,” she said. “They really were hoping that they had this game. They wanted to come back and beat Cranbrook because they beat us in the round robin. They wanted to come out on top.”
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Both boys scored goals as the Sun Devils built up a 5-1 lead late in the second period.
But a bit of bad luck and a few unfortunate penalties allowed Cranbrook to climb back in the third period and tie the game at 5-5.
In the first overtime period, the teams were cut back to four forwards each and in the second they were down to three. South Okanagan had several great scoring opportunities, but in the end, Cranbrook got the winning goal.
The Atom Fiesta kicked off Friday with a few games in Osoyoos and Oliver before the opening ceremony at the Sun Bowl.
A procession led by a colour party from Branch 173 of Royal Canadian Legion marched out onto the ice, followed by Air Cadets of the 232 Bighorn Squadron.
They were followed by dignitaries including Coun. Carol Youngberg representing Osoyoos and Mayor Ron Hovanes representing Oliver. Others included Doug Eisenhut, whose father Paul Eisenhut was instrumental in starting the first Atom Fiesta 44 years ago, along with town and hockey officials.
Players of each of the teams then paraded onto the ice and each player’s name was called out on the public-address system.
Then Jim Harrington – long active on the Osoyoos sports scene – and Mitch Fritz, an Osoyoos-born retired professional hockey player dropped ceremonial pucks.
After the ceremonies, the Sun Devils faced the Idaho Junior Steelheads, handily beating them 8-1.
Not a bad start to a pretty good weekend – all things considered.