The Quesnel Thunder bantam tier-three hockey team continued its impressive run with a second-place finish at an eight-team tournament in Prince George.
The Thunder opened up the tournament with a 7-4 win against Terrace, the team they eventually faced in the tournament championship game.
“Terrace is a very good team with depth,” Kozak said.
“We played our best game of the year as a team against them in the round robin.
“Each player did what they do best as part of the team, for example, taking a hit to make a play, sacrificing by choosing to be in the shooting lane to block pucks and finishing checks.”
Unfortunately, the Thunder special teams took a bit of a break in the tournament final and Terrace scored two short-handed goals on their way to a 4-3 win to take the tournament honours.
“We need to spend more time learning the powerplay and the penalty kill,” Kozak explained.
“As well as the little things that make the difference when two teams are so evenly matched, such as finishing checks and smart dumps under pressure.”
The Thunder made their way to the final with a 2-1 record in round-robin action and a 6-3 win over Fort St. John in the semi-finals.
Following their win against Terrace to open up the tournament, the Thunder followed up with a 4-0 shutout against Fairview.
Cole Daniels earned the shutout for the Thunder.
Despite a 2-1 loss against the tier two Williams Lake Timberwolves, the Thunder finished first in their pool and earned a spot in the semi-final against Fort St. John.
“Williams Lake is a team that we have yet to beat,” Kozak explained.
“There is a mental block that we have to work our way through along with the hard work to have success against them.”
Kozak also said he was impressed with the way his team faced the challenges of playing five games in just over two days and how they learned their best chance of winning always comes with playing as a team.
“Winning is a bonus, a byproduct of becoming a team,” he said.
The bantam Thunder have a few weeks now to prepare for a tournament in Dawson Creek, Feb. 17 – 19.
Also having a good weekend was the midget Thunder tier-three team, as they skated away from Chase with a third-place finish.
The Thunder finished third on the strength of a 4-2 win against the host Chase team in the bronze-medal match.
“It was a great development weekend,” he said.
“We may very well meet [these teams] in provincial playoffs in March.”
In round robin action, the midget Thunder bested Seafair, 6-4, tied Aldergrove 4-4 and beat Penticton 5-4.
Andrews was particularly pleased with the way his team played in the games against Aldergrove and Penticton.
In the game against Aldergrove, the Thunder fired 64 shots at the netminder, while allowing only 17 shots on their net.
“Goaltending was the difference in that game,” Andrews said.
Against Penticton, the Thunder were down 4-2 with eight minutes left on the clock, but made up the difference with two powerplay goals and with the wind in their sails scored the winner with minutes left to play.
“The team never quit believing,” Andrews said.
“I told the boys we could leave proud of our accomplishments.
“I felt we were the best team there.”