Wetaskiwin Icemen capture bronze in Junior B Provincials

It was a long, hard battle for the Wetaskiwin Icemen to make it to the bronze medal round of the Junior B Provincials but they battled hard against the province’s top teams to take the medal away from the Beverly Warriors Sunday morning. Christina Max / Wetaskiwin Times

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The Airdrie Thunder took the Junior B Provincial Championship away from the Wainwright Bisons in a close gold medal game Sunday and the host Wetaskiwin Icemen had bronze medals hung around their necks after beating the Beverly Warriors in the bronze medal round of the tournament.

The Icemen opened their tournament action April 4 falling to the Coaldale Copperheads 7-5 following a back and forth battle. The team lost to Wainwright 7-4 in their second game of the tournament April 5 before finding their game partway through the second period of the third game against the Fort St. John Huskies, beating them 8-3 to head to the semi-finals against Airdrie.

“We hadn’t changed our game,” said head coach and general manager Rob Hartnell. “We very easily could’ve come away without a medal.”

Although the Icemen lost 8-0, they did move on to the bronze medal match-up where they came up against the Warriors — the team that took the Capital Junior Hockey League Championship from them the week before.

In the medal round, the Icemen opened the scoring in the second period with goals from Bryn Pankewicz, Ryan Chambers and Reid Pankewicz, with goalie Devin Allen barring the Warriors from scoring.

Early in the third period, however, the Warriors pushed back with a pair of goals before the Pankewicz brothers answered with a pair of their own. A final Warrior goal at 5:24 wasn’t enough to take the medal away from the Icemen, finish the game 5-3 in favour of the hosts and making them third in the province.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” said Hartnell. “For us to finish with a medal and on home ice is great.”

Hartnell added that the tournament organizers and volunteers did a spectacular job of showcasing Wetaskiwin.

“The crowds were incredible and (coordinator) Densie (Bushnell) did an amazing job,” said Hartnell. “We are so fortunate in Wetaskiwin to have great volunteers to be able to put on events like this and the City of Wetaskiwin did a great job. Everything came together at the exact right time. I think we represented Wetaskiwin well.”

The Icemen organization will take a couple of weeks off to relax and reflect on the season that was before they start think about the season ahead and what needs to be done.

“After five years, you need self-evaluation and the coaching staff, we’ve already talked about what we need to do to go back to where we were when we were trying to win a championship.”

Hartnell said there’s a different mind-set when you’re trying to win a championship compared to when you’ve already won one and the team needs to get back to basics and focus on what brought them their previous successes.

“We’re going to build a team to win the league championship,” he said.