Looking past the two losses, there were more positives than negatives in the first weekend of play for the Valley West Hawks, says first-year head coach Jessie Leung.
The BC Hockey Major Midget League team boarded the bus to Prince George for a pair of games with the Cariboo Cougars, where they lost by scores of 7-4 and 3-2 at the Kinsman Arena.
“It was our first game of the season, the stands were packed, and we were up against a tough opponent that had an uncharacteristically bad season a year ago,” said Leung. “For sure, there were some nerves.
“It wasn’t the result we were looking for, but I am not as disappointed as I might normally be.”
Special teams was a huge factor in the first game, with each team scoring three times with the man advantage.
Valley West opened the scoring, with team captain Luke Gingras of Langley netting the season’s first goal eight minutes in. Cariboo responded with one goal late in the first period and another early in the second for a 2-1 lead.
The Hawks tied the score midway through the second period on a goal from Ian Ross of Surrey, then a pair of power-play goals in the final two minutes put the visitors ahead by two. Spencer Barry of White Rock and Jeffrey Stewart of Surrey were the Valley West goal scorers.
The Hawks carried the 4-2 lead into the third period, but penalty trouble did them in. A four-minute check to the head infraction was followed by a tripping call just 13 seconds later, putting two Hawks in the penalty box. Two minutes later, the Cougars had tallied twice with the two-man advantage to pull even.
Another power-play goal a minute later had Cariboo up 5-4 with 13 minutes to play. An insurance goal with two minutes to go and an empty net tally in the final minute completed the scoring.
Valley West trailed for much of Sunday’s rematch, but battled throughout the game. The Cougars led 1-0 after one period, and the Hawks tied the score one minute into the second frame with a goal from Surrey’s Tyson Talhan.
It took Cariboo just 73 seconds to regain the lead, but again the Hawks came back to tie the score. Stewart netted his second goal of the weekend midway through the game.
The Cougars got the winner two minutes before the second intermission with a shorthanded effort.
“Sunday was a game that showed me the team has a lot of character,” said Leung. “We had some trouble getting things going, but we didn’t quit.”
The Hawks will be the home team next weekend for a pair of games with the Thompson Blazers in Richmond, part of the MML Showcase. The Blazers lost twice at home last week in Kamloops, falling by scores of 4-0 and 6-0 to the North Island Silvertips.
Ten of the 11 teams in the league will be participating in the Showcase at the Richmond Oval.