The Yorkton Bantam UCT Terriers put together the best season a Yorkton bantam ‘AA’ team has had in over 32 years.
They were a combined 33-5-1-1 throughout the SBAAHL regular season and playoffs while winning the first bantam ‘AA’ league title for Yorkton in 32 years. They also won the prestigious Graham Tuer Bantam ‘AA’ Challenge tournament in Regina against 24 of the top ‘AA’ teams in the country.
However their amazing season came to a screeching halt this past weekend at the 2014 Western Canadian Bantam ‘AAA’ Championships in Kelowna, BC, where they finished fifth overall with a 0-3-1 record against the four best bantam ‘AAA’ teams in Western Canada.
The challenge was evident early on in the first game of the tournament for Yorkton against the Alberta champion Lloydminster Heat.
The Heat scored four in the first, five in the second and three in the third to hand the UCT Terriers their worst loss of the season in the form of a 12-1 shellacking.
Yorkton’s lone goal came off the stick of Kaeden Taphorn, who broke the Dane Dow shutout bid in the third period.
But while the score suggested a one-sided affair the truth was that Yorkton actually outshot the Heat 26-25.
So why did they get blown out of the water in their first game? UCT Terrier head coach Graham Garrett feels it’s because his team simply wasn’t prepared for that level of play, having played lesser competition in the SBAAHL all season long. “I think in the first game we just weren’t prepared for that level of competition,” said Garrett.
The Terriers next opponents were the Manitoba champion Winnipeg Monarchs.
It appeared as if game two was going to be a repeat of game one with a three goal outburst in the first period for the Manitoba club.
However the Yorkton defence buckled down in the second and third periods to hold the Monarchs to just one goal.
Unfortunately for the UCT Terriers their offence, which had been potent all season long, was snake-bitten in Kelowna, mustering just one third period goal by McKenzie Welke in a 4-1 loss to Manitoba.
Yorkton’s third game of the tournament saw the Saskatchewan champion take on the host Kelowna Rockets.
The Terriers got goals from Brett Kemp and Carson Miller to take a 2-0 lead into the final five minutes when the hosts’ offence, feeding off the energy from the hometown crowd, put a puck past Terrier netminder Alex Geddes to cut the Yorkton lead to one.
The host Rockets then pulled their goalie in a last-ditch effort to tie the game.
Their bold move paid off as Kelowna put one more puck past Geddes in the final minute of the game to snatch the victory away from the Terriers and replace it with a hard luck tie.
So what went wrong for the Terriers that resulted in a 2-0 lead with five minutes to go being suddenly erased? According to their head coach, nothing. “It’s not like we did anything wrong,” said Garrett. “It’s just that they were a team that never quit and the level of both teams was pretty even and it resulted in the tie.”
The tie left the Terriers with an 0-2-1 record heading into the final game of the round robin portion against the 3-0-0 BC champion North Shore Winter Club (NSWC). Only a win against the Winterhawks would assure Yorkton of one final game in the third place game.
The BC champion NSWC Winterhawks put their offence to work early on, beating Terriers netminder Austin Hilderman three times in the first period and twice in the second.
Yorkton, meanwhile, had its best offensive outing in the final game scoring a goal in each period (one each by Kemp, Derrick Budz and Nicholas Demchuk), however it was not enough as the Terriers ended the tournament as the only winless team despite some solid efforts.
“I feel we finished the tournament really well,” offered Garrett. “I was happy with the way we played. We never quit, never stopped playing hard but in the end we just couldn’t score enough goals.”
Garrett was right in that his team did play well for much of the tournament. After the opening 12-1 loss the Terriers battled hard, keeping each game close. But when they needed a goal it seemed as if their offence was just not there, as if it was left behind at baggage claim at the Kelowna airport.
But while the team didn’t achieve the success it would have liked to at Westerns the head coach feels that, because of the experience, the team will be prepared next season when they expect to repeat as SBAAHL champions and once again qualify for Westerns. “With the returning guys that we have and the guys that are coming up from Pee Wee who were provincial champions this year winning will be the expectation next year as well,” mentioned Garrett, continuing, “The experience that they got this year will prepare them for what is in store next year in order for them to go there (Westerns) and not just compete and be close, but to win hockey games.”