January 2, 2011
Win over Slovaks gives West shot at top-5 finish
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
Team West has a chance to finish in the top half of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge field.
The squad, consisting of players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, will play in the fifth-place game of the 10-team tournament on Monday night in Portage against Team Atlantic.
The puck drops at 7:30 at PCU Centre.
“If you can be the fifth-best team in a world-class tournament, it’s definitely a plus,” said Team West head coach and Elkhorn native Garth MItchell.
Team West, despite being eliminated from medal contention on Saturday night, bounced back with a 4-1 victory over the Slovakia on Sunday evening at MTS Iceplex in its round-robin finale.
No matter what happens on Monday, Team West will finish better than last year in Timmins, Ont., where it placed eighth.
The locals will also finish higher than they did the last time the tournament was held in Manitoba. Team West ended up in seventh spot when the event was contested in Selkirk and Stonewall in 2002.
“That means everything to us,” said Killarney product Reid Gow, who scored his first goal of the tournament against the Slovaks. “We just want to move forward. We don’t want to let everyone pass us.
“We want to be up in that top half. We want to make Manitoba and Saskatchewan a hockey threat.”
Winnipeg’s Brendan Leipsic, Saskatoon’s Chandler Stephenson and Grandview’s Ryan Pulock also scored for Team West, which led 1-0 and 2-0 at the intermissions.
Slovakia’s Andreas Strauch spoiled Andy Desautels’ shutout bid with a breakaway tally 8:55 into the third. Desautels, a White City, Sask. product, made 28 saves in his first start of the tournament.
Mitchell was proud of his team’s showing against the Slovaks coming off Saturday’s disappointment.
“The kids responded pretty well,” he said. “It wasn’t our best effort, but under the circumstances in the first period we were good to survive it and get through that and get going.”