Bantam battlers

JOHN SHORT, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

One of Western Canada's longest-running minor hockey tournaments, the 30th annual Edmonton Invitational Bantam Tournament of Champions, stepped into high gear yesterday with 20 teams, 10 games, numerous goals and a large supply of positive memories.

"In the early days, this was the Henry White Tournament," said Bob Olynyk, now serving his seventh year as chairman. "We still give a trophy in his name, but there have been a lot of changes -- a whole lot."

At first, it was a tournament only for Triple-A midget teams. Now, Double-A and Triple-A squads share the two Callingwood Arena ice surfaces with at least one scout for every Western Hockey League major junior team on hand to watch most of the games.

Proof that the tournament helps develop top-notch players is shown in a partial list of current and forrmer NHL regulars: Dion Phaneuf, Gary and Ken Yaremchuk, Mike Comrie, Ray Podloski, Wayne and Dave Babych, Duncan Milroy as well as Jim and Brian Benning.

Among Edmonton Oil Kings to graduate from the tournament is current starter Michael Burns, this year's honourary chairman.

Olynyk, who also reigns as commissioner of the Alberta Triple A midget structure, took pains to point out this is more than a tournament for hot hockey prospects.

Shortly after noon today, one player on each of the 20 teams will be interviewed by a panel focused on academic excellence, community involvement and other vital elements in addition to athletic skill.

Eight of the candidates will receive $750 scholarships after their closing games this week.

"We have given more than $50,000 through this program," Olynyk said.

The early games on opening day were focused on Double-A teams, including the powerful Spruce Grove Saints, who flattened the Strathcona Warriors 12-5 as Micheal Cardinal and Brad Kaplan struck for three goals each. Ryder Murray chipped in a pair, while Justin Lynch, Harrison Klein, Michael Saito and Chance Thomas shared the others.

Wyatt Niezen led Strathcona with two goals. Cody Sanford, Sean Adams and Codie Berthelot also scored.

James Brady turned in 22 saves as the Beaumont Warriors blanked the Maple Leaf Athletic Club Brickmen 5-0. Tyler Yakubowich scored two impressive goals. Michael Ralph, Cole Chorney and Liam Gregor had one each.

Tanner Cimino fired three goals as Real Estate Weekly halted the Sherwood Park Leafs 7-2. Jordan Hill connected twice with Tyler Benko and Kris Spriggs completing the attack. Darcy Zaharichuk and Steven Wright had the replies.

Taylor Paniccia and Phil Ferenac were impressive with two goals each as the KC Shamrocks halted the Leduc Roughnecks 5-2. Shelby Posieka colleced the other KC goal while Luke Konschuh and Zane Tomich struck for the Roughnecks.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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