The FIFA World Cup final wasn’t the only gold medal game going on Sunday.
Channelling Croatia – the second smallest nation to make the FIFA final – Victoria, in the U-13 category at the Western Challenge Cup ball hockey tournament, it was the first time that they managed to make the gold medal game in this tournament. They went 5-0 during round robin play and led Pool B, while Metro, from Vancouver, led Pool A with an identical record.
Sunday, up against Metro in the final, a team that includes select players from Vancouver, New Westminster, and Burnaby, Victoria played well, however, like Croatia, they lost in the end. It was an exciting tournament nevertheless. The final score was Metro 2, Victoria Vipers 1.
“They were a defensive team, we are an offensive team and in the end, defense won,” said Victoria Coach Rico Soto. “In the end, we won silver and I am really excited and proud that we managed to do that.”
Victoria got on the board first with a goal that came at 13:21 of the first period, by Victoria defenseman Cameron Johnsen. He gathered the puck at the right point, saw an opening and broke in with a spin-o-rama of sorts and fired from the right faceoff circle a shot that went short side on goaltender Marcus Lam, just under his glove. The Vipers held the lead throughout the first period (in junior ball hockey they play two, 20-minute periods).
Metro would tie the score at 58 seconds of the second on a scrambled play. With lots of confusion in front of the net, Jordan Abulail would direct the ball in to tie the game.
Metro would score another at 3:11. Dryde Kirumoto scored, collecting his second point of the game. Marcus Pettinato and Abulail would earn assists on the play.
Victoria pressed hard for the comeback and had some good opportunities; however, the nail was put into the coffin when Victoria’s Joshuwa Ford was called for tripping at 18:45.
“We have put a team into this tournament for eight years now, I have coached for those eight years and this is the first time a Victoria team has gone to the final. They did a fantastic job. Overall they did great and I am super proud of the kids. We will be back next year,” added Soto.
The Western Challenge Cup includes teams from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC.
Victoria won the U11 Pool B with a 5-0-1 record and picked up the gold medal with a 2-1 win over the Surrey Scorpions at Naden Arena. Linken Niedoba scored the game-winner for Victoria. Victoria also won the U15 division with a 6-0 record and won the gold medal at Panorama Recreation Centre 5-4 against the Ridge Meadows Renegades. Duncan Judge led the way with two goals.
Both of the U17 and U19 teams finished third in round robin play.
Details about the tournament can be found, here>>
SHOELACES: Three of the four Westhaver boys were in the tournament. Marty, the eldest, who plays for the Victoria Grizzlies opted out, while Jake Westhaver played for the U13 team, collecting a goal and an assist. Jack played U15, scoring a goal and Andy picked up two goals and two assists for the U17 Vipers. Marty could have played U19.
Andy plays for the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League Westshore Wolves in Junior B.