If Team B.C. wins Sunday's gold-medal game at the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup hockey tournament in Calgary, at least three Prince George connections who will have had a hand in successfully defending the province's title.
The B.C. head coach is Trevor Sprague, the current general manager of Cariboo Cougars major midget team and a longtime Prince George minor hockey coach. The B.C. roster also includes defenceman Josh Anderson, a six-foot-two, 180 pound native of Duncan and a first-round draft pick of the Prince George Cougars, selected third overall in the 2013 bantam draft, and five-foot-eight, 146-pound forward Colton Thomas of Williams Lake, an eighth-round of the Seattle Thunderbirds who plays for the Prince George-based Cariboo Cougars.
The boys from B.C. defeated Saskatchewan 5-4 in their opening game Thursday and ran their record to 2-0 Friday afternoon with a 3-2 overtime victory over Manitoba.
Jake Kryski of Kelowna scored his second goal of the game with nine seconds left in the five-minute overtime to seal the come-from-behind win. The 15-year-old forward, who plays for the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League, took a pass off the boards and skated in unchecked when the Manitoba defenceman fell, then lifted a shot in off the crossbar.
Kryski, a Kamloops Blazers prospect, tied the game with 54 seconds left in the third period to force overtime, a play started by Anderson. Dante Hannoun of Delta also scored for B.C. in the third period and defenceman Dante Fabbro of Surrey picked up two assists as B.C. extended its winning streak to six games, dating back to the 2012 tournament.
"It was a time our best players came out and started being our best players and Kryski played great all game," said Sprague. "It's tough to win hockey games when you don't play 60 minutes and that's one thing we need to put together, but a win's a win.
"We didn't generate a whole lot of offence in the first period. We hit four posts in the second period and started taking the game to them. It came down to the third period just burying our chances and that's what we did."
Brody Wilms of Coquitlam made 27 saves in net for B.C., which outshot Manitoba 36-29. Manitoba (0-2) was held to just three shots in the second period and two ended up in the net as Nolan Patrick and Tanner Kaspick gave Manitoba a 2-0 lead heading into the final frame.
With the win, B.C. (2-0) will advance to the gold-medal game Sunday at 12:30 PST. B.C. plays Alberta today at 10 a.m. PDT. An Alberta win in the late game Friday night against Saskatchewan would put them into the championship game.
Team B.C. is without defenceman Matt Barberis of Surrey, who got hurt in practice and that has created more icetime for other five defencemen.
"Anderson is a top-two guy and he's getting lots of icetime with Barberis out," said Sprague. "He's learning a lot. He's played on the Island his whole life and he's green in certain situations but he's learning real quick, and that's going to make him a better player for the Cougars."
Sprague was an assistant coach for B.C. last year when the team captured gold in the four-team tournament. Last year's B.C. team included Jansen Harkins, now a second-line centre with the Prince George Cougars, and Brad Morrison, the seventh-overall pick in 2012, who plays left wing for the WHL Cougars. Harkins collected five points and Morrison picked up three points in a 9-3 win over Alberta in the championship game.
The current B.C. squad has eight players selected in the first round of the 2013 bantam draft.