Slave Lake’s most successful hockey team this season is the Bantam ‘A’ Thunder. An ‘A’ team in league play, but ‘B’ in provincial competition. They play this weekend in the Bantam ‘B’ Provincial Championships in Springbank, west of Calgary.
In league play this season the team competed in the Interlock League, made up of teams in the Sturgeon Pembina and 16/60 Leagues. The Thunder finished the regular season with an 18-4-4 record, good for second place overall, behind Westlock. Three players finished in the top 10 in league scoring – William Chemago, Nicholas Carpenter and Ethan Syslak.
To represent Zone 1 in the provincials, the Thunder first defeated Peace River in a two-game, total-goal series and then did the same over Sexsmith. In this weekend’s tournament in Springbank, says head coach Richard Chemago, “the team’s goal is to make Sunday, which is top-four and playoffs”
Meanwhile, the team moved on in Interlock League playoffs by defeating Wetaskiwin in two weekend games. The two-game, total-goal series started in Wetaskiwin on Saturday. The home team came out hard and out-shot the Thunder 13 – 4 in the first period, but didn’t score. Having weathered that storm, the Slave Lake boys started chipping away and ended up with a 3 – 2 win.
Chase Nehring was solid as a rock in net (again) and goals by Nicholas Carpenter, Jacob Plouffe and Liam Dickson were enough to give the Thunder a one-goal series lead heading home.
The second game started with Wetaskiwin swarming, forcing turnovers and getting chances. But again, no luck for them. Instead, a turnover in their end set Malakie Muskwa up with the puck in the slot and he buried it – probably Slave Lake’s second shot of the game, 7:17 in.
That signaled a momentum shift. From there through the end of the second period, the Thunder had the better opportunities and they certainly made the most of them. Carpenter in a goalmouth scramble, Aiden Blocka finishing off a William Chemago rush, Blocka finishing off what he’d started with a tenacious forecheck that caused a turnover. Joshua Beaver scored the fifth straight Slave Lake goal for a 5 – 0 lead and 8 – 2 overall and that was how it stood after 40 minutes.
Wetaskiwin made a bit of a comeback in the third, but got no closer than 5 – 2.
Next up is Westlock, who beat Sturgeon in the other semi-final. Word is the best-of-three series has to be completed before the weekend.