The midget B Cowichan Valley Thunder added the Island playoff banner to their league title with a big win on Sunday, and will take their unbeaten season to the provincial championships.
Already guaranteed a spot in provincials, the Thunder slipped past the Oceanside Sharks 5-4 at Kerry Park Arena in the one-game playoff for the Island title.
“It feels pretty good,” Cowichan coach Brayden Zunti said. “I’m glad they pulled it off. It’s always a challenge against Oceanside.”
Sunday’s game went back and forth. Oceanside opened the scoring 55 seconds in. Devyn Zunti replied for Cowichan just before the midway point, but the Sharks restored their lead with just under six minutes left to play in the first period.
Wade Mason’s goal just 10 seconds into the second period tied the score at 2-2, then Frazer Willmott and Brandon Carlson scored less than three minutes apart around the midpoint of the frame to put the Thunder up 4-2, with Dante Evans drawing the assist on Willmott’s goal and Mason setting up Carlson’s marker.
Oceanside got back within a goal with five minutes left in the second, then tied the score at four apiece seven minutes into the third. With three and a half minutes remaining, Mason took a feed from Carlson and put Cowichan ahead for good.
The Thunder clinched the regular-season championship on June 27, then swept their best-of-three first-round playoff series against the Comox Wild on July 7 and 8, winning 8-3 and 11-7. Including playoffs and the Island final, the team has a record of 18 wins and one tie on the Island, with a perfect 11-0 record at tournaments.
Cowichan will be one of three Island teams at the provincial championships in Burnaby on July 26-29, and the coach is optimistic about his team’s chances.
“I know a lot of the second-years want a chance to win gold,” Zunti said. “We’ve played the Vancouver teams in tournaments before, so we’re comfortable with them.”
Zunti’s main job will be to keep the players calm and under control.
“If I can get them to not come out cocky, I think they can come out with gold,” he said. “That could be a little bit of a challenge.”