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Bearcats diggin’ home cookin’

by John Wilmshurst | special to the Fitzhugh

Last weekend the Jasper Bantam Bearcats hosted an A-list of seven teams from Edmonton and area in their home tournament.

Tournaments are a great opportunity for locals to catch some great hockey and, for our kids, an unusual shot at some home games against city league rivals. As was evident from the energy in their play, the home cooking did the Bearcats a world of good.

Friday night, Jasper played their first tournament against the Sherwood Park Knights. If you recall back in early November, the Bearcats lost to this team 4-2 in league play. The Bearcats were out for redemption. The recipe for success in this game was a fast start, something that has eluded Jasper so far this season. But with Dylan Dekker ripping one top cheese halfway through the first, followed by Lucas Oeggerli and Baden Koss giving the Bearcats a three-goal lead going into the first intermission, this meal was done after the first course. Jasper would eventually walk away with a 7-3 victory. Credit Camas D’Antonio and Josh Howes for strong penalty killing performances, and Sebastian Golla (game MVP) for 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) on the night.

Saturday evening, the Bearcats faced off against a very tough opponent in the 530 Oil Kings. There are a number of Oil King affiliated teams in the city, so they’ve been given numbers to tell them apart. The 530 crew got on the board first in this game with six minutes to play in the first, and were handed a full plate of offensive opportunities. But they struggled to solve Jasper netminder Kelan Polard who was simply unreal. Coach Koss should be concerned that, with Oiler goalie Cam Talbot on the IR, we may lose Polard to a callup. He faced turned away 49 to 51 shots, earning him MVP honours. This was good enough to beat the 530 Oil Kings with Koss, Oeggerli and a banged-up Golla finding paydirt for the Bearcats on just 18 shots. Again, it was the defense that shone for Jasper, with Jacob Bartziokas and Adian Deagle hustling to clear pucks.

If Friday night’s game was an offensive team effort, then Sunday’s game had the Bearcats playing team defense. In their final game of the tournament they drew the 531 Oil Kings; a big, fast group who, despite their one and one record in the tournament so far, iced some serious talent. But again, Jasper came out of the gate fast, outshooting 531 eight to three in the first period and outscoring them 1-0 thanks to another Koss coast-to-coast ripper.

In the second, 531 picked up their game but were still only able to poke one of 17 shots past Polard. At the other end of the ice, the line of Dana Angebrandt (who’s name means fierce backchecker in German), Liam Crozier and Owen Kearnan was keeping the offensive pressure up. Koss scored his second of the game to regain Jasper’s one-goal lead, but the highlight of the period was Jasper’s successful kill of a 1:25, two-man advantage. The defensive team play by the Bearcats was stellar for that sequence, and for the whole of the game.

In the third period, Golla gave Jasper a two-goal cushion early on, but in a minute thirty second frenzy, 531 got two goals to tie the game. With three and a half minutes to play, the play got intense. Crozier was particularly impressive with his forecheck tenacity. But, hand it to Kearnan for paying the price in front of the net and swiping in a rebound to give Jasper the late lead. Eventual game MVP Koss iced the cake with a rink-length empty-netter as the clock wound down. Although they were again badly outshot, the Bearcats walked away victors and took home the “Whistler Division” title. Congratulations also to the SEERA Storm for claiming the “Pyramid Division” crown with a perfect 3-0 record.

Many thanks to Krista Bartziokas for organizing the tournament, the many sponsors, parent volunteers and DJs who kept things running and fingers tapping. In keeping with a great new tradition, begun by our Midget team the previous weekend, and in lieu of trophies and medals, a donation was made by the Jasper Bantam Bearcats to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. Making our town proud twice over.

Next weekend, league play resumes in Edmonton. You can read about it here.

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