Changing times for Jasper PeeWee Bears
Losing an hour of sleep to a clock being set forward is tough. But it’s hardly noticed by la famille sportive where getting up early on weekends is the norm. This bleary-eyed bundling of equipment, lunches and carpoolers into a cold pre-dawn minivan that gets pointed at some small town gets old around March. As much as I love watching kids at sport, I would dispense with the twilight launches that are an inevitable part of the experience if I could. Last weekend, in the second round of playoffs between the Jasper PeeWee Bears and the Whitecourt Wolverines we were spared the Sunday morning “spring forward” pain, but had one early start and were treated to two thrilling hockey games.
On Friday, the thrills took a while. If coach Eric Bouchard could have turned back time on the first two periods of game one, he would have. After 40 minutes, the Bears were down three- nothing and desperately needed a turn-around. Some inspirational words in the dressing room and an early third period power play goal from Owen Kearnan wound the Bears up. Then it was Ty Crozier’s turn. He picked up his brother Liam’s rebound and buried Jasper’s second goal to pull Jasper to within one of the Wolverines. The comeback was on. With time running out and within a goal of their opponents Sebastian Golla won an offensive zone draw back to Jacob Bartziokas at the point. He let go a low bomb that Golla then deflected home to draw Jasper even. The stadium went nuts as the Bears celebrated on the ice in an amazing three-goal comeback to put the Bears right back in the series.
Game two took place Saturday morning in Whitecourt necessitating one of those early starts that I so love. PeeWee playoffs follow a two-game, total-goal format so this game was winner takes all. Despite having all the momentum on their side, the Bears had anther slow start, going two goals down in the first period, and struggling with their passing game. But to the delight of the fans, and the relief of the coaches, the Bears started their comeback early in the second period. A Wolverine defensive breakdown left Jasper’s top scorers, Baden Koss and Golla in alone on a two-on-none. Koss made no mistake, drilling the puck high blocker to put Jasper on the board.
Two minutes later, Bartziokas came up big for his team yet again, this time with a seeing-eye wrist shot from the blue line that found the back of the net to tie the game at two. Then 20 minutes of cat and mouse had everyone on edge. Whitecourt came storming back to take a 3-2 lead, leaving the door open for more heroics from Michael Hayashi to tie it up again, sprawled on the ice in front of the net but still able to get enough wood on a shot to put it past the Whitecourt netminder. Then Whitecourt scored again just before the second period drew to a close and took a one-goal lead into the third period.
Less than a minute in, Golla bounced a wrist shot off a Whitecourt defender that found its way in the back of the net to tie the game yet again. All knotted up at four, predictably Whitecourt rebounded to retake the lead as the expectant Jasper parents looked on from the stands awaiting the inevitable tying goal and hopefully a go-ahead marker that they had yet to see in the series. Unfortunately, despite taking 13 more shots on the Wolverine goaltender, Jasper was not able to equalize. But they gave up two more to Whitecourt, including an empty netter in the final minute as Coach Bouchard worked the clock hard to get his team back in it. Jasper fell 7-4 and bowed out to a talented Whitecourt squad who will face either Edson or Wabasca in the final.
Time’s up for the Jasper Bears this year. They had a great season and should be proud of how far they came in a very competitive division. They’ll compete in the North Stars tournament here in Jasper in a couple of weeks, and then hang up the skates until fall. I’ll see you then.
Special to the Fitzhugh