By Keith Lacey
It’s going to be a very long journey for players, coaches and parents alike, but they won’t mind as two South Okanagan Minor Hockey Association (SOMHA) teams have qualified for their respective provincial hockey championships.
The SOMHA Midget Rep squad qualified for the provincials, to be held in Terrace, after claiming the league championship trophy with a win on home ice this past weekend.
They defeated Kelowna, the team that had finished first in the league during the regular season, in two straight games, including a thrilling 4-3 win at the Sun Bowl Arena on Saturday.
The Midgets swept all three best-of-three playoff series, earlier defeating Kamloops and Vernon
A week earlier, the Junior Coyotes Peewee team captured the SOMHA championship on home ice, defeating Merritt to win the best-of-three series in two straight games.
The Junior Coyotes also didn’t lose a game in the playoffs as they swept Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kelowna before beating Merritt in the finals.
The Junior Coyotes will compete in the B.C. Peewee Tier III Hockey Championships in Dawson Creek from March 19-24.
The Midget Rep team will travel even farther to Terrace for the B.C. Midget Tier III Hockey Championships.
Junior Coyotes’ head coach John Seminoff said he knew early on this season this was a special group of players.
“You never know how things are going to go when you bring in a whole new group of young kids at this age group,” said Seminoff. “But after a couple of games early on in the regular season, I remember turning to a couple of parents and telling them that I think this team is good enough to win the league and qualify for provincials.
“I knew early on that if we gelled and played as a team that we had a squad capable of going back to provincials.”
The Junior Coyotes are made up of four players from Osoyoos, four from Oliver, five from Grand Forks/Christina Lake, two from Princeton and one from Keremeos.
The Junior Coyotes have put together a remarkable overall record of 31-5-1.
“To not lose a single playoff game was pretty impressive,” said Seminoff.
The Junior Coyotes also captured championship trophies in tournaments they entered in Vernon, Penticton and Kamloops.
The only tournament they didn’t win was their home tournament in Osoyoos and that’s because they matched up against two Tier II teams and lost by a single goal in both games, including a one-goal loss to Chilliwack, the team that won the tournament, he said.
The success of the Junior Coyotes is truly a team effort, said Seminoff.
“I would say our greatest asset is balance,” he said. “The coaches from most of the teams we faced say we had the most balanced team they had faced all year.
“At the peewee level, you usually have to shut down one top player or one top line, but we have three very balanced lines that can all score and you just can’t shut down one line and expect to beat us.
“We’re also very strong and balanced on defence and with our goaltending. In our 13 regular season games, we only allowed 20 goals, which is pretty impressive for peewee rep hockey.”
The team will be leaving for Dawson Creek on Friday, March 17, with their first game set for Sunday, March 19.
The Owl Pub in Osoyoos will be hosting a team fundraising event on Saturday, March 11 where members of the public can buy a burger and salad or fries for $20, with all proceeds going to the Junior Coyotes’ trip to provincials, he said.
Players and coaching staff will also be accepting donations when they bag groceries at grocery outlets in Osoyoos and Oliver this weekend, he said.
The SOMHA also sets aside a significant amount of money to help pay for the costs involved with its teams qualifying for and competing in provincial championship tournaments, he said.
Town councils in both Oliver and Osoyoos approved $500 in funding for both teams earlier this week.
Midget Rep team head coach Steve Harrison said his team got better as the season progressed and they peaked in the playoffs.
“We definitely played our best hockey in the playoffs, which is what you want,” he said. “To not lose a playoff game shows how well we were playing.”
His team also has great balance with outstanding goaltending, a tough and aggressive defensive corps and group of forwards who can score, he said.
His goal heading to provincials is to play good hockey and hopefully make the semi-finals in the 10-team tournament, said Harrison.
“We know the competition is going to be very stiff, but if would could make the semis and have a shot at the finals, I think that would be fantastic.”
Harrison thanked assistant coaches Mike Harrison (his father), David Gordon, Terry Dawson, Jim Liebel and trainer Balkar Hans for working so hard all season.
Team members include Bryson Garska (Osoyoos), Jaidon Minshull (Keremeos), Carson Shortreed (Penticton), Colten Thomsen (Oliver), Grant Yee (Princeton), Chase McKay (Grand Forks), Trevor Schori (Oliver), Cooper Seminoff (Oliver), Caleb Pearson (Osoyoos), Rillee Poffenroth (Grand Forks), Cole Rezka (Osoyoos), Sunjit Bains (Osoyoos), Jack Fortune (Oliver), Bailey Shaw (Greenwood), Liam Bissonnette (Osoyoos), German Barahona (Oliver) and Robert Knezacek (Okanagan Falls).
Members of the Junior Coyotes peewee team include Connor Costa, Braydon Aldridge, Jacob Helms and Andon Maynard from Osoyoos; Tyler Seminoff, Lyndon Gervais, Ryland Thomsen and Brett Calhoon from Oliver; Charlie Lockhart, twins Ben and Alex Edwards, Kitchner Leslie and Marcus Carney from Grand Forks/Christina Lake; Sydney Lawes and Jaeden Mullin from Princeton; and Shelby Etty from Keremeos.