The Valley West Hawks are setting a course for “uncharted territory” – and will face some pretty tough competition once they get there.
The BC Major Midget League club which won its first-ever provincial title earlier this month with a best-of-three series win over the Cariboo Cougars, heads to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border this week for the Pacific Regional Championship against the Lloydminster Bandit Pipeline Bobcats, the champions of the Alberta Major Midget League.
The best-of-three series hits the ice Friday night, with Game 2 scheduled for Saturday and – if necessary – a third game Sunday afternoon.
The series winner will advance to the Telus Cup national championship, scheduled for Quispamsis, N.B. April 18-24.
While neither team knows too much about the other, Hawks head coach Jessie Leung expects his team to face their stiffest competition of the season.
“We’ve never seen them, but we know a bit about a couple of their guys. They’ve had a very, very successful year, same as we have,” Leung said.
“It’s going to be a real offence versus defence kind of series. You look at their (stats) and they don’t give up much.”
In the Alberta final – a best-of-five series against the Foothills Bisons – Lloydminster did not allow a single goal, winning 10-0, 5-0 and 3-0.
The Hawks, meanwhile, are a team largely built on offence – six of the B.C. circuit’s top-11 leading scores were members of Hawks, including league leader Ben Evanish, a White Rock resident who tallied 70 points in 38 regular-season games.
“They’re built from the net out, with a very good tandem of goaltenders, but that said, I don’t think they’ve seen a team in the Alberta league with an offence like ours,” Leung said.
“And we’re no slouches on the back end, either. We have a lot of strong defencemen, and we have a lot of faith in (goalie) Nick Tallarico. It’s going to be a very interesting series.”
Though he expects goals to be harder to come by in the past, Leung is confident his team will be able to put points on the board.
“Scoring goals isn’t easy – every goal we’ve scored all year, we’ve earned,” he said.
“They kind of have this myth of invincibility in net, we can score goals, we know that. You put a goal or two past them and who knows what will happen – maybe they start to lose a bit of belief in their identity.”
The trip to the Pacific regionals is a first in team history for the Hawks – the team’s previous-best finish was a trip to B.C. semifinals – but Leung isn’t worried that a lack of big-game experience will hurt his squad. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“We have a lot of guys who’ve won at other levels, and we have guys with a lot of experience,” he said.
“We have kids who know how to win. We’ve had to fight through a lot, and now we have to go into hostile territory and win two games against a very good team.”