A Terrace minor hockey team, the Kermode Bantams, will face off against season rivals here in Terrace in the Skeena Valley Zone Championships next weekend, Feb. 12-14.
“I’m expecting a good showing,” said coach Phil Bradford. “We just came out of a third place finish in Williams Lake, a tier two tournament. We are looking strong, improving every game it seems like… Our players have come together to the point that they are capable of beating anybody there,” he said.
Bradford said the Kermode Bantams have beat every team during the season, but also lost to each team, so competition next weekend will be strong.
With 18 Terrace players ages 13-14, the team has had quite a successful season thus far.
Starting out a bit rocky, with several strong players leaving to pursue hockey elsewhere, Bradford says they had an unsure roster and were short a second goalie.
But the team pulled together and picked up goalie Kaiya Storey from Prince Rupert, who is the only female on the team and splits goaltending with Terrace’s Colby Jephson.
In the Skeena Valley league against Kitimat, Smithers, Houston and Vanderhoof, the Terrace record is 5 wins, 2 losses, and one tie.
A tier three team, Terrace has also won a Kamloops tournament and earned third place twice in higher-level, tier two tournaments — one in Quesnel and the other in Williams Lake.
Bradford says the Kermode Bantam strength this year is their team play and how they come together as a whole.
“Every game is a full team win, a three-line full team win… every line does their job. They work hard, they forecheck hard, they back check hard, those are our strengths,” said Bradford.
He adds that part of their team strength is having committed parents, who provide funding, help with fundraising, and make sure the players are fed and do well in their grades so they can travel to tournaments.
“And we have a good leadership core [captains and assistant captains],” said Bradford. “They stand together as a group, they work hard on and off the ice, they say the right things in the dressing room,” he said, explaining that they encourage the team and correct and challenge fellow players in a good way.
“I ask a lot from them,” Bradford said, adding that he asks for their input into decisions about moving players around or changing things up on the ice during a power play.
The Bantam leaders are co-captains Quinn Mulder and A.J. Desousa, and assistant captains Trevor Ebeling, Jared Moth, and Rhone Mann.
Quinn Mulder said a season highlight for the team was beating Williams Lake “in dominant fashion” in their most recent tournament, since that team is strong and plays tier two hockey.
Ebeling added that early in the season Kermode Bantam’s played in a Prince George tournament with only 10 skaters, rather than 14 or 15.
“We completely out played two teams. That was quite an accomplishment for us I think,” he said.
Asked what they enjoy about playing on the team, Desousa said winning is pretty satisfying.
“It’s good to see everybody happy after the game,” Moth said of winning.
Mulder said that his enjoyment is simply playing the game, and Ebeling added that the other big part is “being on a team with all of your best friends.”
In preparation for next weekend’s zones and what could be their final games of the season, the captains said the keys are eating right, hydrating, and mentally preparing by visualizing themselves in the game.
As captains, they want to “lead the way by example,” Mulder said.
Ebeling said Friday will be the toughest, with two strong games in six hours against Kitimat at 2 p.m. and Vanderhoof at 7 p.m.
Mann said the Vanderhoof game is a key rematch, because Vanderhoof beat them in zones last year, closing the door to provincials despite the Kermodes’ dominant season with 82 wins out of 86 games.
“We basically went undefeated all year and lost to them right when it mattered,” Mann said.
This year Kermodes are shooting for the win.
“It will be hard, but if we all play good, we should win,” said Moth. “We just have to be on top of our game.”
“With five teams as close as we are, it’s really just about who wants it more,” Ebeling added. “We’ve got to go out there and give it everything we’ve got.”
Recalling previous away games with strong cheering against them, the Bantam leaders said they are happy to have the home crowd, especially for such important games.
They hope for a good crowd next weekend, particularly the 7 p.m. Friday game against Vanderhoof.
Fans can wear Kermode Bantam colours, black and red, and there will be an award for the loudest fan.
Terrace plays on Friday, Feb. 12, at 2-4:30 p.m. against Kitimat and at 7:30-10 p.m. against Vanderhoof. They face Smithers on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 2-4:30 p.m. and Houston on Sunday, Feb. 14, at 1:30-4 p.m.
If they win, the Kermode Bantams, sponsored by McCarthy Motors, will advance to provincials in Smithers March 13-17.