One of the most competitive girls hockey tournaments in B.C. had a Prince Rupert twist this year.
Standout Rupert right-winger Sam Wiley took to the ice with the U12 Northern Capitals at the Canada Cup West hockey tournament in Kelowna from May 12-14, and won every single game with the team, helping the Caps claim the coveted trophy.
In a tournament that Northern Capitals coach Bobby Hutchings didn’t expect to do so well against fierce competition with teams from all over B.C. and Alberta, the team swept their round robin foes and went 4-0, beating the Vancouver Island Monarchs 6-1, the Selects Hockey BC 12 6-0, the Havoc U12 Elite 8-2 and Calgary Pinnacle Hockey 4-3 in double overtime. That game was definitely memorable, said the hockey star, who is entering Grade 8 in September.
“We definitely got really tired, but we just had to pull through and that’s how we won. We’ve never been in that situation before,” Sam said.
Not only was the Pinnacle team the Northern Capitals’ toughest competition, they were also the most physically intimidating team at the tourney.
“They had a bunch of good players. Their defence was really strong and they were really physically tall. They definitely had a size advantage,” Sam added.
The right-winger played with a few girls she had known previously thanks to prior tournaments – two from Terrace and a few from Vanderhoof and Prince George.
Wiley carries a 64 km/h slapshot with her, which has earned her the name ‘Slapshot Sammy’. One of her favourite spots to set up office is along the half-wall – the exact same spot as superstar Alexander Ovechkin scores all his goals with the one-timer on the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
“She’s always set up on the left side in the slot for the one-timer, that’s how she scores most of her goals,” said her dad, Kevin Wiley.
In the championship game, it was a rude awakening for the Calgary squad that faced northern B.C.’s best under-12 girls hockey athletes. The team won 2-1 in a rematch against Pinnacle Hockey. To get there, the Caps beat the Okanagan All Stars 3-1 in the semifinals.
“They’re used to dominating – that Calgary team wins everything. The parents said you guys should bring this team to Alberta because you’d be so impressed with the competition there,” said Sam’s mom Val.
Communication was key for the Northern Capitals, said Sam, who notched two assists in the tourney.
“I think we worked together well because everybody played their position really well and we always had our heads up to see if anybody was open. Lots of talking going on,” she said.
Hutchings put Wiley out in all situations, whether it be on the power-play, penalty kill or 5-on-5.
“He said I was really aggressive and I was really good at forechecking, back-checking, setting up plays and getting open to passes,” Sam said.
And while winning it all was the goal for the squad, the team bonding is the part she always enjoys the most when playing outside of the North Coast. The team went out for lunches, dinners, and played in the outdoor pool at the hotel and in the guest rooms.
“I made tons of new friends when I was there, it was just an amazing time,” she said.
Wiley will now attend two hockey camps in Quesnel and Prince George this summer and move up to the Bantam division with the mixed boys and girls Prince Rupert Seawolves team. She wants to try out for the rep squad, but the division comes with new challenges.
“It’s kind of scary going into Bantam because there’s going to be hitting, but I’m also very excited and up for the challenge,” Sam said.
Also in her pocket is an invitation to join the Northern Caps next spring, reuniting her with her pals and girls hockey stars from across the north.