A Merritt Minor Hockey team brought home the champions’ banner.

The Merritt Minor Hockey Association U11 Team 1 – McDonald’s have crowned their victory earlier this month by winning the Thompson-Cariboo Super League Division Playoffs.

A team that JJ Holmes, coach of the U11 Team 1 Merritt Minor Hockey team, calls a family.

“We’re a fresher team and I think the team has really become a family, and, you know, working together and pressuring the puck, creating opportunities for themselves has been probably the biggest success of our team this year,” he said.

“It’s not just one individual, it’s the family of the team all working together. Each one of those kids has a different positive aspect that they bring to the game.”

Holmes also highlighted the successful season the team had.

“We played a total of 20 games this season and our record was 15 wins, three losses and two ties,” he added. “We had a really good, successful season. We came third out of 13 teams, in the whole league. So that kind of allowed us to set up to be in a decent bracket for playoffs.”

Led by Holmes, the team went through a huge growth throughout the season.

“A lot of these kids were first-year skaters and they’re now able to play positions, back check in for a check, read some plays now,” he added. “It’s been a huge growth for every single player in the team.”

Holmes describes the journey that made them champions.

“It’s been pretty emotional to actually see these kids from day one to where we were during the playoffs,” Holmes said. “We’ve lost some big games in overtime and some close losses in the regular season that kind of prepared us for our playoffs and allowed us to stay calm in these high stressful situations.”

The U11 team won both semi-finals and finals in double overtime, a pretty special memory for Holmes, the kids, and everyone that made it possible – from parents, coaching staff, management and other volunteers.

“Winning at home, just having the fans and the support and everything, that was pretty energetic.”

Last weekend, the team headed to Lumby to play in the District’s Tournament. Unfortunately, the team fell short in the competition to both Lumby teams, one of them being the champion of the District’s Tournament.

“Our team walked away leaving everything on the ice and I couldn’t be more proud of them. These kids played for the crest on the front of their jersey and not the name of their back.”

The future looks bright for the U11 team as they continue to hone their talents and strive for even greater success in the seasons to come.