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U18-1 Warriors sweep Slave Lake for league bronze

Club wins two-game, total-goals series 10-6
U18-1 Warriors’ forward Austin Teske, who ended the night with an assist, fights to get to the puck during first-period action of the club’s 5-3 March 10 win over the Slave Lake Thunder at the Rotary Spirit Centre. The victory, combined with a 5-3 win over the Thunder in Slave Lake March 5, gave the Warriors bronze in Tier 2 of the U18 Northern Interlock League.

WESTLOCK – Although they had hoped to at least play for a Northern Alberta Interlock (NAI) U18 Tier 2 title, and with it earn a trip to the provincial championships, the Westlock U18-1 Warriors will settle for league bronze following a dominant, two-game, total-goals playoff sweep of the Slave Lake Thunder.

The Warriors 2022-2023 campaign ended triumphantly March 10 at the Rotary Spirit Centre with a 5-3 victory over the Thunder that combined with an identical 5-3 win in Game 1 played March 5 in Slave Lake, propelled them to third place in the NAI.

Coach Warren Wylie said despite a slow start Friday night in front of a big home crowd that saw them fall behind 1-0, they never wavered and kept the pressure on throughout and fired 58 shots at the Thunder netminder — Jackson Churchill scored what turned out to be the series-clinching goal at 15:18 of the middle frame, while the game winner came off the stick of Carter Rennie with 18 seconds to go in the period.

“We were definitely the stronger team. I think we outplayed them in both games and their goaltending is really what kept them in the series,” Wylie said the morning after the win.

Looking back, Wylie said they had a decent regular season and played above-.500 hockey, but weren’t able to overcome Athabasca and Edson in the opening rounds of the playoffs. That said, he’s proud of the boys and what they were able to accomplish.

“We had a good year and finished just over .500. I mean our goal was to make provincials, but we fell a little short. All-in-all, it was a decent year for the boys,” he said. 

For seven Warriors the Friday-night victory will be their final minor hockey game, while Wylie is also hanging up his whistle after a decade-and-a-half of coaching teams at all levels in the association.

“It was a really good group of kids and it’s tough to say goodbye because I’ve been coaching for 15 years and now my youngest is done playing. I’ve said to my wife that we’re going to have to pick up something else to do because it could be a long winter without going to the arena all the time,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a little bittersweet for sure and for the boys who are moving on too, because it really is a feat to play all the way through up to U-18 because so many don’t make it all the way to the end.”

George Blais,

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