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Marques does P.G. proud

Tournament MVP from Prince George leads Team B.C. to WHL Cup hockey title Sunday in Red Deer
28 Miguel Marques WHL Cup MVP
Fifteen-year-old Miguel Marques of Prince George celebrates on the ice in Red Deer while holding the WHL Cup. Marques was the MVP of the four-team tournament and led B.C. to a 5-2 win over Alberta in Sunday's gold-medal game.

Miguel Marques and his linemates didn’t take long to adapt to their surroundings at the WHL Cup in Red Deer.

Before they put that Team B.C. sweater on their backs for the five-day tournament they already had two months of practice jumping onto the ice together.

The high-scoring unit was a key ingredient in B.C.’s romp to the tournament title. They beat Alberta 5-2 in Sunday’s gold-medal final and Marques, a 15-year-old born-and-bred Prince George minor hockey product, was singled out for his efforts, chosen the tournament’s most valuable player.

“We knew coming into the tournament that we were probably one of the strongest teams here and came together as a team very quickly and obviously in a short-term competition that’s important,” said Marques.

“We’ve all played together (in spring hockey) and we all have the skill, we just need to work hard and outwork the other teams and that’s what we did, and we got the gold medal. We came here on Sunday and had three practices and got our systems dialed in.”

This is the ninth year of the four-team tournament, which provided a showcase for the top 2006-born players from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. The rink was packed with scouts from every Western Hockey League team and they will use their assessments to help make their picks in the WHL draft, Dec. 9.

Marques is expected to go early in the first round and his outstanding performances in five games against his age peers will no doubt keep him prominent on the list of prospects. Marques collected five goals and five assists in five games playing right wing on a line with centre Tomas Mrsic and left winger Jordan Gavin.

“Both my linemates made the all-star team,” said Marques. “I had a lot of points, but I couldn’t have done it without my team. We beat Saskatchewan by a lot both games and that’s how we got on top (of the scoring chart). Our chemistry was built and that’s how it started.”

That same forward trio plays together in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League and in eight games this season with the Delta Academy Under-17 Prep team they’ve combined for 40 goals and 101 points. Mrsic and Gavin each had nine points in the tournament.

B.C. went undefeated, advancing to the title game with a 9-2 win over Saskatchewan in Saturday’s semifinal. Alberta beat Manitoba 2-0 in the other semi.

Marques knew it was going to be tough knocking off the host team for a second time in the final. The boys from B.C. needed overtime to edge Alberta 5-4 in the final round-robin game Friday, a game in which B.C. blew a 4-1 lead to force the extra period.

“That was a close game, a lot of scoring chances both ways, but we took some undisciplined penalties and they tied it up with not much time left and we went to overtime and won that one,” said Marques.

“Today, it was another tight battle and we came out on top because we were working hard and finishing our chances.”

B.C. led 2-1 after two periods and scored two empty-net goals in the final minute.

Cayden Lindstrom of Chetwynd scored the winning goal 4:35 into the second period. Jesse Sanche of Kamloops made 30 saves as his team outshot Alberta 37-22.

Most of the games were played in the 7,000-seat Peavy Mart Centrium, where the WHL Red Deer Rebels play, and Marques was impressed with the work that went into the event.

“Just the set up they had for us and the time everyone brought into this tournament was unreal, and the way we were able to keep our dressing room in the rink,” said Marques. “We were playing out of the Rebels’ rink and it felt WHL-based. It was awesome.”