TEAM ALBERTA CLAIMS GOLD AT 2016 WESTERN CANADA U16 CHALLENGE CUP
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*Video courtesy: Western Hockey League
*Photo credit: WHL/Derek Leung; WHL/Brock Boot
*Game stories at links below and on WHL.ca available for media use
*Player quotes provided below for media use
*Tournament all-star team listed below
Calgary, AB – Carter Chorney’s overtime winning goal propelled Team Alberta to its fifth Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup championship on Sunday afternoon at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary.
All it took was 31 extra seconds for Chorney, a second round pick of the Spokane Chiefs, to bring the game to a 3-2 conclusion as Alberta edged British Columbia and claimed its third consecutive title, dating back to 2013. The event was not hosted in 2014 due to the Canada Winter Games.
“I just swung to the right wall there and got a pass from Matthew Robertson,” Chorney said, recounting his tournament-winning tally. “I was just thinking shoot, shoot and get someone going to the net. I was lucky enough, got the shot through, drove the net and put it in… It was an unbelievable moment.
“Honestly, it feels unbelievable. The boys all came together as a family. We all worked really hard together, created a bond and came out victorious.”
While Chorney celebrated on the ice, co-captain Kirby Dach and the rest of the Alberta bench erupted, overflowing from the boards to join their overtime hero.
“He shot it then crashed the net and there was a rebound,” Dach said, replaying what he saw from the bench.
“He poked it in and it slowly crossed the line. It was one of those goals. Everyone on the bench just erupted. Guys were jumping off, throwing their helmets and gloves. It’s just a great feeling.
“I can’t put it into words, it’s indescribable. We’re very honoured to be wearing this jersey for our home province and especially to take home gold. It’s just a great feeling all around.
“We had 20 guys that all bought into the plan. We all stuck together. We were a family from day one and I think that’s what set us apart from everybody else.”
Chorney’s heroics came after Team BC’s Alex Swetlikoff, a third round pick of the Seattle Thunderbirds, tied the game 2-2 with only 5:11 remaining in regulation. From there, Alberta goaltender Taylor Gauthier preserved the 2-2 tie, making a ridiculous glove save in the dying moments of regulation to push the game to overtime.
“On their tying goal, I misread the play a little, didn’t look out front and they beat me on that,” said Gauthier, a first round pick of the Prince George Cougars. “In the dying seconds, the same play kind of developed. It started down low and they put it up to the face-off circle. I just read it, had a little anticipation, put my glove out and it went in my glove.
“It’s obviously a great experience playing with the best players in Western Canada and to come out on top is unbelievable.”
Sunday’s gold medal contest between Alberta and BC was a fitting end to a tournament that was tightly contested from start to finish, as both teams enjoyed glorious opportunities and displayed masterful skill throughout.
“The boys battled hard,” Swetlikoff said Sunday. “We left it all on the ice. Credit to Alberta for winning. They played a good game today.”
Alberta got off to a good start, but BC held its ground and battled every step of the way.
Goaltender Roman Basran was tested early, called upon to make a big glove save only 11 seconds into regulation after Alberta forced a turnover deep in BC territory.
Gauthier was tested in his own right midway through the first period with BC on the power play. Some swift puck movement created an opportunity for Massimo Rizzo in tight and the BC captain redirected a quick shot towards the net, but Gauthier was there with an answer. When the night was finally done, the product of Calgary had made 32 saves.
Ethan Browne, a first round pick of the Everett Silvertips, opened the scoring in the dying moments of the first period for Team Alberta.
Taking a pass from Kootenay ICE prospect Peyton Krebs, Chorney cruised in over the BC blueline before making a strong play towards the high slot. The puck bounced to Browne who wasted no time, sweeping a one-timer through Basran to give Alberta a 1-0 lead with 37.6 seconds remaining in the first period.
Alberta doubled its advantage in the early stages of the second period.
Dylan Holloway carried in over the blueline, dropping a pass back to defenceman Rhett Rhinehart. The 6-foot-2 blueliner sent a long shot towards the BC cage as Holloway drove the net, catching a slight redirect to send the puck to the back of the cage for a 2-0 Alberta lead with 16:29 to go in the second period.
Ethan Leyh got BC on the board with a power-play goal in the second period.
After Rizzo set the table, Jacson Alexander’s point shot found a way through a maze before Leyh pounced on the rebound, making it a 2-1 game with 12:33 remaining in the second period.
Basran continued to take care of his blue paint in the second period, making a diving glove save, robbing Alberta of a glorious backdoor opportunity on a power play.
At the other end of the rink, Gauthier went save-for-save with Basran. After a turnover in the high slot, Gauthier was forced to make a big glove save off Kolton Cousins, preserving a one-goal Alberta lead with roughly five minutes remaining in the second period.
With gold hanging from around each of their necks, players from Team Alberta head their separate ways, back to their club teams and back to preparing in hopes of making the jump to the Western Hockey League come next season. But what remains is a bond established over a hard-fought tournament and an experience each of these players will remember for the rest of their lives.
“It was a great experience,” Dach said. “The Western Hockey League and all four Western branches made this a great experience for every team here. I’m very thankful to have played in this and happy that we won gold.”
GOLD MEDAL GAME STATISTICS
BRONZE MEDAL GAME – Manitoba (4) @ Saskatchewan (1) – FULL STATISTICS / GAME STORY
Earlier on Sunday, Team Manitoba defeated Team Saskatchewan 4-1 to claim the bronze medal on the back of a two-point outing (1g-1a) by Regina Pats prospect Tristen Robins and a 36-save gem from Brandon Wheat Kings first-rounder Trent Miner. Swift Current Broncos first-rounder Logan Barlage had Saskatchewan’s lone goal, his fourth goal and seventh point of the tournament.
2016 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup All-Star Team
G – Byron Fancy (Team Alberta) – Claresholm, AB – Red Deer Rebels
D – Kaeden Korczak (Team Saskatchewan) – Yorkton, SK – Kelowna Rockets
D – Braden Schneider (Team Saskatchewan) – Prince Albert, SK – Brandon Wheat Kings
F – Logan Barlage (Team Saskatchewan) – Humboldt, SK – Swift Current Broncos
F – Peyton Krebs (Team Alberta) – Okotoks, AB – Kootenay ICE
F – Joshua Williams (Team British Columbia) – Langley, BC – Medicine Hat Tigers
About the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup
The majority of players participating in the event have been selected in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft or have since been listed by WHL Clubs. The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup has been sponsored since 2009 by the WHL and has been made possible through financial support provided by the WHL, Hockey Manitoba, BC Hockey, Hockey Alberta, Saskatchewan Hockey Association and Hockey Canada.
This year marked the sixth year of the event. The first ever Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup was held in Blackfalds, Alberta in 2009 and featured four of the top eight players selected in the 2012 NHL Draft. In 2010, the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup was not contested due to the Canada Winter Games. In 2011, the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatchewan Hockey Association hosted the event at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 2012, the tournament was hosted in Calgary at Father David Bauer Arena, the home of the WHL. In 2013, the tournament was again hosted in Calgary at Father David Bauer Arena. In 2014, the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup was not contested due to the Canada Winter Games.
Team Alberta is a five-time champion of the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, capturing the title in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 in addition to this year, while Team British Columbia won the event in 2012.
(Player, WHL Club – NHL Draft/Current NHL Club – Branch Team)
Matt Dumba, Red Deer Rebels – Minnesota Wild – Team Alberta
Derek Pouliot, Portland Winterhawks – Pittsburgh Penguins – Team Saskatchewan
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings – Edmonton Oilers – Team BC
Morgan Reilly, Moose Jaw Warriors – Toronto Maple Leafs – Team BC
Jake Virtanen, Calgary Hitmen – Vancouver Canucks – Team BC
Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings – Florida Panthers – Team Manitoba
Connor Bleackley, Red Deer Rebels – Colorado Avalanche – Team Alberta
Brayden Point, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Alberta
Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Rangers – Team BC
Haydn Fleury, Red Deer Rebels – Carolina Hurricanes – Team Saskatchewan
Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds – New York Islanders – Team BC
Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets – Arizona Coyotes – Team Alberta
Jansen Harkins, Prince George Cougars – Winnipeg Jets – Team BC
Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders – Buffalo Sabres – Team Alberta
Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds – Edmonton Oilers – Team Saskatchewan
Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants – Edmonton Oilers – Team Alberta
Brett Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors – Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Manitoba
Sam Steel, Regina Pats – Anaheim Ducks – Team Alberta
Kale Clague, Brandon Wheat Kings – Los Angeles Kings – Team Alberta
Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings – 2017 NHL Draft Top Prospect – Team Manitoba
Garrett Pilon, Kamloops Blazers – Washington Capitals – Team Saskatchewan
2015 Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup All-Star Team
G – Matthew Thiessen (Team Manitoba) – Altona, MB – Tri-City Americans
D – Ty Smith (Team Alberta) – Lloydminster, AB – Spokane Chiefs
D – Jett Woo (Team Manitoba) – Winnipeg, MB – Moose Jaw Warriors
F – Carson Focht (Team Saskatchewan) – Regina, SK – Tri-City Americans
F – Eric Florchuk (Team Alberta) – Ft. Saskatchewan, AB – Victoria Royals
F – Eli Zummack (Team BC) – Kelowna, BC – Spokane Chiefs
For further information, please contact:
Corey St. Laurent
WHL Senior Manager, Communications
WHL Coordinator, Communications