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Junior career ends as a national champion

Garrett Forster wins RBC Cup playing with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors

Garrett Forster can’t think of a better way for his Junior A hockey career to end.

The Surrey Minor Hockey alum wrapped up a five-year BC Hockey League career Sunday as a winner of the RBC Cup as a national champion.

Forster played with the West Kelowna Warriors, 4-0 winners of the host Lloydminster Bobcats in a nationally televised game played before 2,300 fans. Five teams played in the week-long RBC Cup tournament.

“It was a crazy atmosphere,” said the 21-year-old. “Every seat was filled, the arena was packed. It was awesome to play for a national championship in a game like that.

“I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Forster assisted on the very important second goal of the game, passing from the wing to Reed Gunville in the slot. The Warriors led 1-0, but were being outshot by a wide margin.

“I got the puck and saw Gunner was open,” said Forster. “I got him the puck and he one-timed it into the back of the net.”

Goaltender Matt Greenfield made 48 saves for the shutout.

“He was unbelievable, but he was like that all year,” said Forster.

The Warriors had a long road to travel to get to the RBC Cup. They needed 24 games to win the B.C. Hockey League title, upsetting a Penticton Vees team which went 50-7-1 (win-loss-tie) in the regular season and finish 22 points better than West Kelowna. The Warriors won the second-round, best-of-seven series in six games.

“Penticton is real good, but I liked our chances in a seven-game series,” said Forster. “They had more of an offensive team, but we’re bigger and play a heavier game. We rolled three or four lines, and wore them down.”

After winning the Fred Page Cup as BC champions in April, the Warriors traveled to Estevan, Saskatchewan for the Western Canada Cup, winning four of five games for another championship in early May.

Then it was on to Lloydminster, where in six games at the RBC Cup, the Warriors lost just once. The Bobcats, as the host team, were in the tournament but hadn’t played since April 8 when they were eliminated in the third round for the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs.

“It was kind of weird how they got in,” aid Forster. “They were sleeping in their own beds all week, while it seemed like we were on the road for a month.”

Forster began his BCHL career in the 2011-12 season as a 16-year-old with the Chilliwack Chiefs, but was moved to the Coquitlam Express midway through his second season. His third year began playing for the Surrey Eagles, but after just seven games, he found himself with the Victoria Grizzlies.

Traded to West Kelowna in the offseason, he looked around and expected his final year in the league would be his most successful.

“I knew they had a good team from playing against them with Vic,” he said. “We were an older group, so we were geared for this year.”

After his best season in Junior A, in which he tallied 25 goals, 29 assists and 54 points – all career highs – Forster will be moving on the St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.

“It’s a Division Three team at a smaller school near Green Bay,” he said. “I know they’re well-coached, and reached the Frozen Four this year.”

Forster expects the jump from Junior A to university hockey will be difficult but adds he is ready for the challenge.

“It will be more physical, I’m sure,” said Forster, who celebrated a birthday just two days before the RBC Cup tournament began. “I’m 21, so more a man than a boy. I’m assuming it will be tough, but also know it can be done.”

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