Thunder prevails in Prince George

It took two games for the Surrey Thunder to get their game into top form.

And after that, there wasn’t a Juvenile team in the province able to keep pace.

The Thunder captured the B.C. Hockey provincial championship in Prince George on Easter Sunday, thumping Ridge Meadows 5-1 in the championship to complete an unbeaten run through the six-team round robin tournament.

“We struggled to score in the first two games,” said Thunder head coach Carlo Devita. “We outshot Prince George 40-22, but we ran into penalty trouble. We had to kill eight five-on-three situations. And against Richmond, we outshot them 30-8.”

Surrey tied the host Prince George team 3-3 on the first day of competition, and were held to a 2-2 tie with Richmond on day two. With only two teams advancing to the sudden-death championship game, the Thunder needed to run the table to qualify, and they exploded for 32 goals in those three games.

The third day of play began with a 13-1 victory over Oceanside, and ended with a 7-2 romp past previously unbeaten Ridge Meadows. On the final day of play, they ripped Coquitlam 12-1 to qualify for the final, where they again defeated Ridge Meadows.

“By the third game, everyone was firing on all cylinders. The offense kicked in, and it wasn’t much of a struggle after that, said Devita. “Defensively, the boys played well throughout the tournament.”

The majority of the players on the Thunder team were also with the squad a year ago, one which qualified for provincials last season only to lose the championship game in double overtime.

The goal since September was to win the provincial championship, an accomplishment that was shared this season by four of last year’s players who were ineligible to play.

“Four of the five guys who were on the team last year and couldn’t play this season because they are overage were up there with us, supporting the guys,” said Devita, referring to Rob Harris, Jason Shield, Jeff Lovett and Jeff Mathews. “They were at the hotel with us, helped keep the guys focussed, and they were wearing the Surrey jerseys in the stands.”

In total, Surrey averaged seven goals per game, conceding just 10 over the six games. Chris Ball and Mike McDonald were the offensive leaders, while Mike Palmer and Mike Ball (a pickup from the Midget A ranks) contributed on defence.

But Devita credited the entire team for their efforts, noting “everyone played well and had a strong tournament.”

Winning a provincial title was a huge accomplishment, but one the Thunder had been setting their sights on for six months. The surprise was winning the tournament’s Fair Play award as the least penalized team.

“And we were the second-most penalized team in the Pacific Coast (league),” laughed Devita. “But we had a lot of compliments from the tournament organizers and the referee-in-chief about the way our boys conducted themselves at the rink and at the hotel.”

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