Buoyed by a strong showing of hometown support at their opening season showcase earlier this month, the U17 Northstars Hockey Academy are headed on the road Sept. 29 - Oct. 1.
The Junior Prospects Hockey League team, based out of Williams Lake, will travel to the Lower Mainland Friday, Sept. 29 for a set of three games in Delta.
Coach Tyrel Lucas said he expects a great year ahead for the team.
“Seeing our play on the ice, moving forward I think we’re going to have a fantastic season.”
On the Sept. 15-17 weekend, hockey families, friends and fans packed the arena to watch the Northstars take on three other teams from the league. Lucas had pitched the idea at the end of last season for the showcase, which is usually held in larger centres such as Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
“It’s been years in the making for us,” Lucas said of being able to host a showcase locally. “Thank you Williams Lake for always supporting us. We had such a great turnout. The league was blown away and what a cool atmosphere it was.”
The showcase kicked off Friday night with a barn burner at Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex between the Northstars and the Langley Hockey Club.
By the end of the first period, the Northstars were up by two with a goal from Ayden Saran at 16:38 assisted by Kaelen Swanson and Asher Lucas and another at 11:58 by Rhys Marchand assisted by Dawson Ernst and Carter Krueger.
Langley fought back in the second period with two quick goals at 19:42 and 18:51 to tie the game up. The Northstars’ Blake Lambe answered back at 16:53 with a goal assisted by Linden Pinette and Carter Krueger before Langley scored another goal just before the end of the period at 1:48 making it a 3-2 game.
The third period saw Langley pull ahead, scoring again at 10:29 and 8:30 making it a 5-2 game, and scoring two empty-netters at 5:07 and 2:22 for a 7-2 final.
“Anytime you have a two-point lead, it hurts to lose that,” said Lucas, noting he saw a more structured game and settled nerves for Saturday night’s game against the Titans Hockey Union from Spruce Grove, Alberta.
“That was a lot more of a typical game for us,” Lucas said.
The Northstars kicked off scoring in the first period with a goal from Dawson Ernst assisted by Asher Lucas at 7:16, followed up by another goal at 5:39 by Dawson Knackstedt assisted by Ayden Saran and Dawson Rowse.
The Titans Hockey Union answered back in the second period with goals at 4:19, 3:30 and 1:36 to make it a 3-2 game.
The crowd went wild when the Northstars tied it up 3-3 at 4:41 with a goal from Kaelen Swanson assisted by Chaz Lucas.
A five-minute overtime period left the game tied, with the Titans ultimately winning in a shootout 4-3.
“I thought the players represented themselves very well after a tough loss. I was really proud of them. They put on a great hockey game and saluted the crowd afterwards.”
On Sunday, the Northstars won a decisive victory over the Island Hockey Club.
Northstars Cash Sellars scored the first goal of the game at 6:10 in the first period assisted by Chaz Lucas and Linden Hart.
Northstars Dawson Ernst followed that up with a goal a minute later assisted by Ayden Saran and Dawson Rowse making it a 2-0 game.
The Island Hockey Club notched one goal in the second period at 10:57 to make it 2-1, but after that it was all Northstars in the third period with Asher Lucas scoring at the 15:29 mark assisted by Kaelen Swanson.
“That opened up the scoring for us,” said Coach Lucas.
At 8:46 Blake Lambe scored with an assist from Dawson Rowse. At 1:24 Kaelen Swanson making it a 5-1 game with an assist from Carter Krueger and Dawson Ernst.
This year about half of the roster is from Williams Lake, while the rest of the Northstars players come from Terrace, Burns Lake, Fort St. John, Vanderhoof, Saskatchewan, Langley, 100 Mile House and Quesnel.
Those players have settled into life with their billet families and are attending school in Williams Lake.
While being a part of the hockey team is a big commitment for the entire coaching staff, support staff, management and families, Lucas said it’s worth it.
“Hockey will teach you something new every day - a new life lesson,” he said of what he loves about the sport.
“You can take the lessons you learn in hockey and apply that to life. I can relate any ups and downs in life to the game.”
When the team is in Delta this weekend, they will also be attending a Canucks game on Sept. 30, on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars, whose son Cash is on the team, will travel down for the game and will be part of the ceremonies, participating in the puck drop and dancing during the intermission.