BARRHEAD - Mission accomplished.
At the beginning of the season, Barrhead Pirates U15 head coach Alex Luciuk said the team's goal was to win the Northern Alberta Interlock (NAI) banner and go to the provincial championships.
And on March 11, in front of a home crowd, they achieved their goal by defeating the Whitecourt Wolverines 7-1, which earned the right to go to the U15 Tier 2 Provincial Championships in Lacombe from March 23 - 26.
To get to the Tier 2 NAI championship, Barrhead needed to win their first game to get to the championship round, which they did by beating Drayton Valley on Feb. 25 to enter a four-team mini-tournament. The Pirates then won three-straight games to earn a spot in the championship final, including over Edson, Whitecourt, and Athabasca.
Luciuk said his team were a bit nervous to start the game, which impacted their play, but they quickly settled down. In the first seven or eight minutes of the game, the Pirates allowed 10 of the 11 shots they faced in the opening frame.
However, starting Barrhead netminder Dailyn Petiot held them in the game until the Pirates got their jitters subsided.
Barrhead hit the scoreboard first with less than a minute left to play in the first period, thanks to a goal by Nathan Batty. Barrhead captain Kruze Heimstra and alternate captain Cash Gibert drew assists.
In the second period, Barrhead took control, outscoring Whitecourt three goals to one. At just over the seven-minute mark, Ryan Keith scored a power-play marker with assists by Conner Kalmbach and Layne Young.
Whitecourt responded just over a minute later when a Barrhead miscue at the blueline caused a Whitecourt player to have a breakaway. Petiot stopped the shot, but unfortunately, he could not coral the rebound that a second Wolverine player trailing the play was able to pounce on.
But it did not take long for Barrhead to respond after Kalmbach directed the puck towards the net from a long way out that ended in Whitecourt's net.
With just over five minutes remaining period, just after a power-play expired, Gibert, with helpers from Brock Beauliua and Caden Lane, would extend Barrhead's lead to 4-1.
In the third period, Gibert would score his second goal of the game with a perfect long-range shot from beyond the circle on the power-play that would go over the Whitecourt goaltender's shoulder just under the crossbar at just over the halfway mark of the period. Hiemstra assisted on the goal. Young would score Barrhead's final two goals. The first was assisted by Hiemstra and Kalmbach, while the second, on a power-play marker, by Liam McCauley and Ashton Luciuk.
Coach Luciuk said the Pirates' playoff success followed a strong regular season where they finished two games above .500 with 9 wins, 7 losses and two ties. He noted that for the regular season, they were in a combined Tier 1-2 Division.
"We were undefeated against all the Tier 2 teams, with our only losses coming against (Drayton Valley and Slave Lake) in Tier 1 and a lot of the games, we were able to make a game of it," he said.
Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com