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Quesnel Thunder minor hockey team wins regional tournament on home ice

The U11 team won their playdowns by defeating Fort St. John at the West Fraser Centre
The U11 Quesnel Minor Hockey Team celebrate defeating their Fort St. John counterparts in the regional finals at the West Fraser Centre on Feb. 27. The local team won 6-3 after losing the Fort St. John earlier in the tournament. (Submitted photo)

Young Quesnel hockey players used home ice to their advantage on Feb. 27, as the Quesnel Thunder U11 team won the North Central Regional tournament at the West Fraser Centre.

Matt Powell has coached the team for the past five years.

“They’re a special group of kids,” he said.

“Not much adversity gets to them… They’re fun to be around, they’re a fun group.”

The Thunder lost to Fort St. John in the opening game of the playdowns, but would come back to win the final against the same team on Sunday. The Thunder were down 2-0 in the finals, but ended up winning 6-3.

The U11 team has been going to tournaments throughout the year, with relatively impressive results, appearing in the finals or semi-finals of each tournament they’ve entered.

Powell said the U11 division is his favourite to coach.

“With this age group it’s all about relationships, and having the kids learn to be good people, not just good hockey players,” he said.

“Have fun, and have a positive environment… (Players) learn, and they’re like little sponges when they’re this young.”

READ MORE: Quesnel Minor Hockey going strong despite COVID-19

A shift in how Hockey Canada approaches hockey is seen in this U11 age group. Powell said this was the first group which has played exclusively on smaller ice surfaces before moving to the U11 level.

Powell was the director of the Quesnel Minor Hockey when the change was made.

“I bought in right away, and you can see the results,” he said.

For Powell, coaching the U11 age group is all about making sure the kids have a “joyful” experience on the ice and keeping kids at the rink having fun.

“It’s a big change from how I grew up,” he said.

“I don’t even use the word ‘winning.’ Just go, have fun, do the best you can and be happy… you see it on their faces, they’re pretty excited.”

The final tournament of the year for the U11 Thunder will be in Osoyoos in early March.

READ MORE: Quesnel minor hockey looking for volunteer coaches

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