After starting their season in uncertainty, bumped to a lower division and unsure if they could even field a team, the U18 North Shore Avalanche are the provincial champions.
Due to the ever-changing circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many Avalanche players were unsure of their desire to return to the team at the start of the 2021-22 season.
“There was some talk at the beginning of the season that they weren't really wanting to play rep, there were maybe one or two that were still saying yes,” said coach Tyler Drake-Durocher. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the desire to play in the rep division, the league relegated the team to the house tier. Afterwards, however, many of the older third-year players decided to return.
“We ended up pretty much with the team that was expected to be the rep team, it was ironic, and we were pretty much running through teams as the season started. They were having fun, but were told that we're going to be getting moved up to the A (rep) division anyway,” said Drake-Durocher.
According to Drake-Durocher, there was some hesitation amongst the team when they moved up, but he pressed the need for balance, hard work and fun. And it paid off with the team battling through the regular season and becoming the provincial champion, beating the Surrey Falcons by a score of 2-0 at the Minoru Arena in Richmond on Sunday (March 27).
Drake-Durocher said that the rough patch at the start was something of a blessing in disguise that helped the team grow stronger as the season progressed.
“It was just remarkable having a team that almost didn’t be, become the best team in the province. I just speak so highly of the girls' character, not just as athletes, but who they are as people,” said Drake-Durocher.
“Every single member of this team played with unmeasurable amounts of heart and passion, and I couldn't fathom a better way to wrap it all up,” said captain Sara Tehrani in an Instagram post after the big win.
Both Drake-Durocher and manager Kimi Chan praised the leadership of Tehrani and the skill of goaltender Kaylie Driver, who only let in a single goal throughout the five-game championship tournament, but said what made this team great was how they played as a team.
“It was just amazing to see them grow over the year, everyone came together and became a family,” said Drake-Durocher.
Chan said that because of their age, many members of the team will be moving on from minor hockey, making the championship all that more meaningful. But with a good mix of younger players as well, many will take this win into their season next year.
The U15 North Shore Avalanche also had a strong year as they took silver in their provincial championship, losing to the U15 Kelowna Rockets on Sunday (March 27).