The Smithers midget Storm are provincial tier-two bronze medalists.

The Smithers midget Storm are provincial tier-two bronze medalists.

Midget Storm win bronze at provincials

Team goes 4-1 at eight-team tournament in Penticton

The Smokescreen Graphics’ midget Storm capped of an excellent season on the weekend, winning bronze at the tier-two provincial championships.

“Things went really well,” head coach Brendan Hutchinson said. “Our guys played great defence all tournament long.”

It didn’t look good for the Storm early on though.

They arrived in Penticton two days early to acclimatize and get a practice in to shake the rust off from their month without games, but it didn’t help.

Their first game, against Vancouver was their worst of the tournament.

It was a fairly tight matchup, but the Storm weren’t able to generate a lot of offense.

Vancouver chipped away at the Storm, generating the majority of scoring chances, on the way to a 3-0 win.

“We just came out flat,” Hutchinson said.

“We didn’t execute, we didn’t play within our system. Things were looking pretty down.”

Making matters worse for the Storm, they lost their far-and-away leading scorer Riley Coish to a dirty hit in the second period and top-six forward Shawn Cote to a broken collar bone.

Both missed the rest of the tournament.

The loss of two scoring forwards forced the already offensively challenged Storm to buy in to a defensive-first system the rest of the way.

The first-game defeat meant the Storm would likely have to beat both Penticton and Terrace in their final two games to place in the top two of their four-team pool and qualify for the playoff round.

After the game, the Storm’s leadership group called a team meeting to talk about their play and get some on-ice kinks worked out.

An entirely different Storm team showed up the following day for their matchup against the tournament hosts from Penticton.

The boys from Smithers dictated the play with a hard, physical forecheck.

The teams battled back-and-forth for 60 minutes, but Mitch Turko’s two goals proved the difference in the Storm’s 3-2 win.

“The team really played with purpose,” Hutchinson said. “I think we proved to ourselves that we could do something in this tournament. Everyone played well.”

A day later, the Storm played their second must-win game in a row against Trail.

Again, it was tightly contested. The Storm played perfect team defence from start-to-finish, giving Trail little zone time and few chances. And again, first year forward Turko’s two goals led the way in a 3-2 Storm win.

“That was our best game of the round robin,” Hutchinson said. “Mitch was our best forward, he played really well.”

Up next for the Storm, a semi-final against the number one seed from Kelowna.

Earlier in the year the Storm played Kelowna at a tournament in Prince George and lost 1-0.

On the day, Kelowna was the better team.

They carried most of the play, and got the win behind a last-second goal in the final seconds of the first period. The Storm could have easily come away with a victory though; they hit two posts and had a goal disallowed.

“In the end, the better team won, but we didn’t come away feeling that we were losers.

“We had a depleted roster, and we had our chances. It could have been our game.”

With the loss, the Storm moved into the bronze medal game against Saanich.

They continued to bring their stifling team defence.

The Storm scored the only goal they would need, as goaltender Owen Sikkes was full value for the shutout, giving the Storm a bronze-medal finish.

It was quite an accomplishment for the last-ranked team heading in, missing three of their leading scorers.

For Hutchinson, the bronze medal performance proved that moving up to tier-two competition, from tier-three, was the right move.

“I think any time you move up you are going to get some criticism, but our performance reinforced that it was the right decision.

“When you play weaker teams you don’t develop good habits.

“We played five good games against five good teams and we had some success.”

Turko finished as the tournament’s second leading scorer.

Hutchinson also singled out the play of goaltender Clay Kisskila, and defencemen Nathan Wylie and Brayden Karrer.

Northern B.C. dominated the provincial spectrum this year.

Terrace cruised to gold in the tier-three tournament and Burns Lake won the tier-fours.

Several of the Storm’s seven graduating players will head to Junior-A and -B camps this summer, though none have committed to a team yet.