The Ridge Meadows Rustlers bantam A1 team pulled off the rare feat of winning the president’s trophy in the tough first flight this year.
The Rustlers went 6-11-3 during the regular season, but coach Mitch Bartley said the players gave their opponents too much credit early in the season.
“I don’t think they understood how good we really were,” said Bartley.
The team was hit by a lot of key injuries, and finished ninth out of 13 teams after regular season play.
They started the playoffs with a 3-2 win over Langley, but then ran into a tough Burnaby Winter Club squad that beat them twice, and dropped them from the prestigious Final Four, and into the President’s Trophy.
There, they had two wins over Abbotsford, a tie with Hollyburn and a loss to Semiahmoo.
“It was a team effort – different guys stepped up in different situations,” said Bartley.
“They were more of a crash-and-bang type of group,” he said. “They won their share of battles. And we had some finesse, and some shooters.”
The Rustlers needed a tie-breaker against Hollyburn to decide the presidents trophy final, but Ridge faced a depleted opponent. Hollyburn was wracked by suspensions, after an ugly game against Semiahmoo that saw an ambulance and police called to deal with fighting in the stands.
So, Hollyburn had only seven players for the final game.
Being competitive at the top level again is a big step for Ridge Meadows Minor hockey, and Bartley gives a lot of credit to the association’s emphasis on skill development the past two seasons.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for the guys on that team and the association. Three years ago, we were in flight three.”
Bartley himself came out of the Ridge minor hockey system, then played four seasons in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants, ending in the 2005-2006 campaign.
He has been the bantam A1 head coach for two seasons, and his assistants were Justin Fuller, Kyle McCarthy and Matt Charron.
The team: goaltenders Matteo Petrelli and Jorrin Lenton; defencemen Dylan Ford, Zach Wismer, Niklas Pederson, Emmett Garrett, Nicholas Thomson and Sean McCloskey; forwards Colby Larson, Dylan Tonks, Devon Taylor, Conner Williamson, Taylor Lewis, Ryan Denney, Jakob Mainhout, Nicholas Amsler and Isaac Tomic.