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Czech gold for duo
Seven games on European ice. Practices with pro coaches from the Czech Republic and Finland. Some sightseeing of castles and the Terezin Concentration Camp in Prague.
It was a incredible 10-day geography, history and hockey education for Vernon minor hockey products Powell Connor and Dylan Sedlacek.
The Sun Valley Source For Sports Bantam Tier 1 Viper defencemen were handpicked for the Czech Spring Hockey Camp International Tournament and helped the Western Canada Selects Grizzlies bounce the Finland Espo Blues 3-1 in the final.
“They were awesome,” said Vernon’s Ryan Parent, one of four Grizzlie coaches. “We had them paired together a good chunk of the tournament and they seemed to complement each other. Both of them took advantage of the big ice. They had more time and space to be creative.”
Connor and Sedlacek are both in Grade 8 at Kalamalka Secondary.
“That was definitely the highlight of my hockey career,” said Sedlacek, 14. “Winning the tournament felt amazing.”
The Grizzlies doubled the Blues 8-4 and lost 6-1 to the Czech Selects in exhibition play. They went 2-1 in the tournament round-robin, losing a shootout, before taking the semifinal
“The final was fairly close,” said Sedlacek, an Oiler fan who had 1+1 in the tourney. “We wanted it more and we worked harder. Our passes were crisper; we all passed the puck well.”
Sedlacek, a 5-foot-8, 140-pounder was born in Texas but has played minor hockey here since 2006. He captained the Vernon Tier 1 Mustangs his first year of Pee Wee.
Connor, who turns 14 today, is a 5-foot-10, 150-pounder born in Chilliwack. He has played here since 2004. He loved being partnered with his buddy Sedlacek.
“We worked hard on our defensive play and because we had played together in the past, we knew where each one of us was going to be,” said Connor. “We contributed offensively as well.”
Parent said the Blues are one of the top teams in Finland so the Grizzlies were exposed to some lightning-fast hockey.
“There was a high level of skill and a really fast pace,” said Connor, an Oilers and Tampa Bay fan. “There’s not much hitting, but they didn’t turn the puck over much. I learned about the European style and the speed and skill you need to compete at that level.”
Parent, an assistant coach with the BCHL West Kelowna Warriors, has been taking 2000-born teams to the Czech Republic for 10 years and coached club squads there from 2000-03.
The cost per player is $3,300 and that includes all expenses. Grizzlie alumni include Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators draft pick) and David Pope (Detroit Red Wings draft).