Midget reps make history by winning home tourney

By on October 11, 2017
The winning Tracker midget rep team (back row, left to right) Liam Kelly, Atrayu Johnny, asst. coach Sahil Bansi, asst. coach Tyler Wowchuk, head coach Zach Wright, Tanveer Bansi, Dorian Billy, Connor Ouellet, Travis Simon, Nick Anscomb, Leif Ellingsen, Darius Sam, Mack Stead, Braeden King, asst. coach Payton Schaefer, (middle row, kneeling) Marco Camestro, Dylan Stirling, Justin Tighe, Anthony Tulliani, Tyler Mosley, (in front) goaltenders Colton Macaulay and Jayden Simon. (Ian Webster/Herald).

 

It’s been a long time coming, but the Merritt Tracker Sports midget reps finally did it — winning their own annual Thanksgiving Icebreaker tournament.

After years and years of settling for second place or less at their home tourney, the local midget team won it all at last — defeating the North Island Eagles 6-3 in the championship game on Monday afternoon, played in front of over 200 fans at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

En route to the final, the Merritt team went 3-0 in preliminary play — beating Kerry Park 7-2 in their opener, then downing Trail 8-6 and West Vancouver 9-3. A total of seven teams took part in this year’s Icebreaker tournament.

In the hard-fought gold-medal game, Merritt got a pair of goals from Tyler Mosley and singles from Braeden King, Darius Sam, Justin Tighe and Anthony Tulliaini.

The Merritt win avenged an earlier 6-3 loss to the North Island team in a mean-nothing game (for Merritt) on Sunday that had to be played in order to give the North Island three preliminary match-ups.

The enormity of the Merritt achievement in winning its own tournament for the first time in 17-plus years was not lost on the team’s coaching staff. All four bench bosses — head coach Zach Wright and assistants Payton Shaefer, Tyler Wowchuk and Sahil Bansi — played on Tracker midget rep teams at one time or another, dating back to 2004.

Linemates Marco Camestro (left) and Darius Sam congratulate each other following one of their many scoring plays. Camestro registered five goals and two assists, while Sam had a pair of goals and a team-leading nine helpers. (Ian Webster/Herald).

“It made it pretty special,” said Wright, who has been coaching with the Merritt team for the last five years. “We all know how hard it has been to achieve.”

Wright really likes this year’s midget squad.

“They all get along really well,” he said. “There’s no real stars; it’s everybody working together.”

The scoring statistics would seem to support Wright’s assessment of his own team. No fewer than 12 different players on the Merritt squad registered one or more goals over the weekend, and 14 of the team’s 15 skaters picked up at least one point.

Wright likes to use the word ‘tenacious’ when describing his team.

“They work really hard, and just keep coming at you,” he said. “They kind of walk that fine line of not taking penalties, but being really hard to play against.”

The Merritt team had its share of adversity to overcome on the weekend. It lost defenseman Atrayu Johnny to a leg injury in the first game, and then had to sit blueliner Tanveer Bansi for a pair of games because of a fighting major.

“It put a lot of pressure on our new, younger defensemen — Leif Ellingsen and Dylan Stirling — but I thought they did very well,” said Wright.

With last year’s starting netminder Mack Stead playing forward this season, the pressure was on first-year midget goalies Colton Macaulay and Jayden Simon to really step up. The rookies have done so in a big way, said Wright.

The Tracker Sportswear team is back in action this weekend, with a pair of league games at home. They host Chase on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. at the Merritt arena, then entertain Salmon Arm on Sunday in Shulus at 1 p.m.

Other Merritt minor hockey games at home this weekend include the Fountain Tire atoms hosting Summerland (Saturday, 2:15 p.m., Merritt), the Ramada peewee reps playing North Okanagan (Saturday, 5:45 p.m., Merritt) and the Alpha Design bantam house team facing off against Kamloops (Sunday, 1 p.m., Shulus).

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