Representing Canada in the Czech Republic, a group of Maple Ridge ball hockey players came home with gold medals and individual honours.
The West Coast Express was an under-15 selects team put together by Gary Slavin, long-time president and executive member with the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association, and he brought a strong local contingent to the Plzen Challenge Cup.
His assistant coach was Geoff Moffat, who brought his son Cole.
Other local players included Evan Jonsen, Keegan Prophet, Brendan Chabot, Brandon McRobert, Eddie Riddell and Mitchell Shelton. Also playing was Slavin’s son, Tyler.
They won the final on Sunday, beating the host Plzen team 3-1.
“It was tight right to the end,” said Gary Slavin.
His team got into penalty trouble, but had drilled hard on special teams before heading overseas.
“Special teams is huge. They like to call a lot of penalties on both sides,” he said.
The Express blocked shots and endured the welts left by that hard orange ball that every Canadian street hockey star knows so well, but came away with the gold.
Cole Moffat and Tyler Slavin were both selected to the all-star team.
“Cole played really solid forward on both sides of the ball,” said Gary Slavin.
Tyler Slavin, a defenceman, was a key on the penalty kill and his big shot is a weapon on the blueline.
The team played six games in total, and finished the round-robin portion of the tournament 5-0, having outscored the competition by an aggregate score of 31-2.
They started Friday with a 3-1 win over the hosts, then had three more wins on Saturday: 10-0 over the Czech National under-14 team, 4-1 over the Slovak Gajary Flames, who are the reigning tournament title holders, and 10-0 over a German team, EV Weiden.
Sunday morning, the Express beat T.J. Blatna Datels, another Czech team, by a score of 4-0, and that sent the local team to the final as the top seed.
The Express have been invited back to the tournament next year, and Slavin said parents are already starting to discuss the trip.