Riley Lettington (left) and Blake Riley on the attack against Penticton. Carlos Gonzales photos

Quesnel’s Atom Selects learn a lot at Salmon Arm hockey tourney

Henley Hannah had back-to-back shutouts while Blake Riley scored three hat tricks

The Quesnel Thunder Atom Selects team learned a lot about themselves at the Salmon Arm Atom Dev 1 tournament at the end of last month (Nov. 30 to Dec. 2).

The squad’s cohesion and work ethic showed in a couple big wins early on and they proved they are able to hang with the best in their defeats.

Their first contest on the Friday night was against a team from Penticton.

“We heard they were a pretty good team, so we were excited to play them and came out really strong,” says head coach Mike Riley.

The Thunder dominated their opposition, winning 7-0, with game MVP going to Payton Beaudry.

“She’s one of our defencemen,” says Riley, “And our defence was the best it’s been all year. They really shut down Penticton.”

On Saturday morning, the team continued to ride the previous game’s momentum, beating a squad from Kamloops by a score of 11-0.

Jayden Campbell scored four goals, Blake Riley had a trio and the game’s MVP was awarded to goalie, Henley Hannah, who earned his second straight shutout.

“He’s just steady,” says Riley of their first-year goalie. “He makes the saves he needs to make and always keeps us in games.”

Hannah is the only net-minder for the Atom Thunder team this year, as their other backstop has been fighting through injury problems.

“We rely on him,” Riley says. “He’s got a lot in his shoulders for sure.”

READ MORE: Quesnel Atom Selects score plenty at Kamloops tourney

The last of the round-robin games came against Winfield on Saturday afternoon.

Although they lost the contest 5-4, Riley says the team put out an excellent effort.

“We were down 5-3 late in the game,” he says, “but in the third period we were all over them and got it back to 5-4.”

While they had the opposition hemmed in, forcing them to ice the puck again and again, the Thunder could not capitalize.

“We hit the post four times but just couldn’t get that tying goal,” says Riley. “We just didn’t get the bounces.”

As the team’s goals for-and-against was so good, they were able to get a bye to the semi-finals on Sunday morning, where they were matched up against Spokane, the top ranked team in the tournament.

“We lost 8-4,” says Riley, but he added the game was a lot closer than the score suggests.

“It was 3-3 about halfway through the game and we had a lot of momentum going but then we started getting into penalty trouble and were shorthanded a lot in the third period.”

Blake Riley won MVP awards for the last two contests and scored hat tricks in three of the four games.

The coach says the defeats were a good measuring stick for where their squad is development wise.

One big take away from the tournament was the performance of the defense, Riley says.

Coaches Matt Powell and Ryan Campbell have been working hard to help the squad improve on the back-end and it has paid off in dividends, allowing the team to compete against very difficult opponents.

Riley says the Thunder will continue to work on their competitive drive moving forward.

“We’re learning to play against the top teams and they’s where we want to be; we don’t want to be a tier-3 team.”

The Atom Selects will play league games between now and Christmas and will take part in a tournament in Williams Lake in January.

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