The U15 AAA Vancouver North West Hawks won the British Columbia Elite Hockey League championships Sunday (March 20), beating the Okanagan Rockets by a score of 6-2.
The North West Hawks play out of the North Shore Winter Club and are mainly composed of players from the North Shore, as well as the Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky region and Burnaby. Led by local product Ty Coupland, who had two goals and an assist, the North West Hawks cruised by the Okanagan Rockets after besting the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds the night before.
“Coming into the season, we had some high expectations and thought that we were building a group that could potentially win a championship at our U15 level. It's something that we talked about from the start of the year and fortunately for us, our journey put us into a position to win a championship,” said Chris Shaw, head coach and general manager of the Hawks.
Shaw also highlighted the performance of Avery Hewson and Daniel Tong, who played on a line with leading playoff scorer Koji Gibson, saying “they were key contributors down the stretch.” Another player of note was Leith Hunter, a 6-5 defenceman from North Vancouver who led the league in defensive scoring during the regular season, as well as tallying two points in the championship game.
The U15 BCEHL teams changed up their playoff format this season, with a newly dubbed championship week when all 10 teams met in North Vancouver to compete in a round-robin tournament played at NSWC as well as the Karen Magnussen and Harry Jerome rec centres. The top four teams then continued on to the semi-finals in a one game elimination round which mimicked the World Juniors tournament.
Despite the strong season for the Hawks, it wasn’t without challenges, facing a number of severe injuries to key contributors during the regular season. They were also held out of the John Reid Memorial Tournament, when several members of the team tested positive for COVID-19 right after Christmas.
“We had qualified for the John Reid tournament in St. Albert, which is the most prestigious bantam tournament there is. We had to pull out 24 hours before because our entire team caught COVID. That was a real letdown for our team because that was one of our goals last year was to play there,” said Shaw.
Despite the struggles, the team pulled through and won against a strong Okanagan team in the BCEHL final, with Shaw praising the maturity of his team. “I'm hoping we have, at the end of the day, a handful of players drafted in the Western Hockey League, and we have some very goal-orientated, driven hockey players there. I think that just really helped carry the group,” said Shaw.
The North West Hawks, part of BC Hockey’s AAA zone program, have other teams with championship aspirations, with the U18 team playing in the finals against the Vancouver North East Chiefs, and the U17 team up against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in the semi-finals this weekend.