KAMLOOPS — It was the result the fans came to see. On Sunday afternoon, in front of a packed McArthur Island Sports Centre crowd, the Thompson Blazers Bantam Tier 1 team became only the fourth local squad to win the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey tournament, as they downed the Alaska North Stars 5-2 in the championship game.
Alaska opened the scoring 13 minutes into the first period on a bomb of a shot by the North Stars Colin Kessler from the top of the circle.
Less than two minutes later Kamloops would even the score thanks to a good forecheck Mitchell Harnett. A bouncing puck would land on Brady Milburn’s stick, and he’d swat it past North Stars netminder Bryant Marks to knot the game at a goal apiece.
The Blazers would take the lead on a bit of a lucky shorthanded goal partway through the second period.
Sawyer Mynio would start the play in his own end, taking a hit but getting the puck ahead to Ty Horner who broke into the North Stars zone 2-on-1 with Lian Gayfer. Horner would feed across to Gayfer who lost the handle but still snuck it past Marks to give the Blazers the 2-1 lead.
Alaska would ratchet up the pressure in the second, and it paid off. Kessler would hold in a clearing attempt, then make a sweet move around one Kamloops defender, then another, before feeding Gabriel Ludwig who beat Blazers netminder Brendan Smith for the equalizer.
With the score tied 2-2 heading into the final frame, the game was up for grabs.
Smith would make some big saves early in the third for the home team, including a shorthanded 2-on-1 for the North Stars.
That set the stage for Jordy Keller to play hero.
With under 7 minutes left in the third period, Harnett would create another turnover on the forecheck, which got the cycle game going for the home team. Ryan Larsen would make a nice pass to Harnett, who took the puck to the net, then fed Keller out front for the go-ahead goal.
Keller would add another a couple minutes later before Tanner Molendyk would seal it with a shorthanded empty-netter to make it 5-2 for the Thompson Blazers.
The victory marks only the fourth time in the 51-year history of the tournament the local team has hoisted the trophy, making it a special moment for these players and coaches.
“It’s unbelievable,” Keller said after the game. “We’d head that team [the North Stars] was really good, they beat a couple academy teams, and we beat them. We’re so happy.”
For Head Coach Kyle Allan, this KIBIHT championship marks the second in the past three seasons.
“It’s a stepping stone for us, as far as the rest of our season,” Allan said. “It’s something we’ll always remember. I still have my hat and my ring and I still carry those around from the last one. Same goes for these guys - they’ve got some mementoes and some good memories from a good tournament.”
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