The midget rep Whistler Winterhawks turned a great start to the season into a regular season banner. Now, they're looking to roll the momentum over into the playoffs - towards their ultimate goal of a provincial championship.
The Winterhawks recently wrapped up their division with a 13-2-3 record, giving them the No. 1 seed heading into the Tier 4 postseason.
Head coach Mike Borrelli said the team seemed to hit its stride early, with players finding their chemistry while finishing second at a preseason tournament in Las Vegas
"We just started playing well right off the hop," said Borrelli. "The boys just came into the season with a good mindset and wanted to win and that tournament in Vegas kind of set the tone."
On top of the team's regular-season dominance, the 'Hawks also went undefeated to win a tournament in Comox in December. They've had a consistent offensive punch led by Tyler Welsh and Thomas Cankovic, but are getting contributions from the entire lineup to find success.
"Our ultimate goal is to win provincials, so we've tried to get better each game. We've bonded together like a family and have worked hard for each other," said team captain Ryan Grills. "There's a core group of us that have been together for many years and we've had similar seasons to this where we gel together so it's nice not having too much turnover - we know where everyone is on the ice and understand how to play with each other."
Grills also credited the play of goaltenders Michael Finlay and Dylan Girard, who have given Whistler a chance to win each outing and sport one of the Lower Mainland's lowest goals-against averages as a tandem.
"When you know your goalies are going to have your back every game, it helps the team play well," he said.
Many of the players earned a bronze medal under Borrelli at the bantam-level provincials in 2012, with that group moving up to join second- and third-year midget players who are similarly hungry for a provincial title.
"It's definitely doable for this season, that's for sure," said Borrelli.
This might be the best year to do it, too, as the team could lose more than just its two 17-year-old players after this season. The 'Hawks have multiple players affiliated with Junior B teams this year who will likely get a good look at the next level for 2013-14.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see us lose five players next year to Junior B or major midget," said assistant coach Greg Welsh.
Having the No. 1 seed will give the 'Hawks some byes before their playoff schedule kicks off. They'll need to finish in the top two in the postseason to make it to this year's provincial championship in Port Alberni.
Va Va Voom returns
The team's moms are bringing back the Va Va Voom women's event, sold out last year, as a fundraiser for Whistler Minor Hockey Association scholarships and bursaries, and to help pay the Winterhawks' way to provincials.
The event - taking place Wednesday (Feb. 13) at 7 p.m. in the Nicklaus North clubhouse - will feature booths showcasing local businesses catering to women, food and drink, as well as a silent auction, raffle and prizes.
Tickets are $20 and are available at Run With It, Fruv and Whistler Creek Athletic Club.
The 2012-13 midget rep Whistler Winterhawks roster: