When a new hockey season starts, one of the chores is trying to find tournaments where you think your team will be competitive.
That was the conundrum facing the CR Oilers U13 developmental squad, but luckily, they found an event right in their wheelhouse.
So much so that they went out and won it all.
The Oilers are back home and fresh off winning the Tier 1 title at the Whitemud West Fall Invitational Tournament in Edmonton over the weekend. They capped it off by beating the host team, the Winterhawks, 4-3 in the final on Sunday.
And for good measure, Owen Bowden decided to wait until the dying seconds to pot the winning goal — 2.9 seconds left in regulation time, to be precise.
Stu Impett, who coaches the team along with Jeff Bowden, said the purpose of participating in the tournament was to get the team on the road sooner rather than later.
“We put our entry in back in August,” he said. “We wanted to see where we fit in because it’s tough to find a tournament right off the bat, especially for us. You don’t want to get rolled over, but you don’t want to roll over the other teams, either. This was right on the mark and the perfect calibre for the kids.”
It was a four-team division with the top two playing for gold and the bottom two battling for bronze once the round-robin was decided. The Oilers started out against the hosts on Friday afternoon and ended up tying the opener, 4-4. The following day was a double-header, which began with a 6-2 win over the Seera Stealth of Edmonton, followed by a 4-1 triumph over the Chestermere Lakers.
The Oilers finished tied with the Winterhawks based on record — two wins and a draw — but ended up second based on goal differential courtesy of the Winterhawks scoring two more goals during the round-robin. No matter, though, as both teams would line up for the rematch with the championship on the line. If there was a difference, it was that the Winterhawks would have last change by virtue of the higher ranking.
A spot of penalty trouble for the Oilers within the first minute of the game meant the Winterhawks had plenty of time on the power-play in the early going and they took full advantage, scoring on a 5-on-4 to make it 1-0. The Oilers solved their discipline problems and managed to take control after that, putting up three unanswered goals to go up, 3-1. The Winterhawks got back in it, though, and tied the game at 3-3 in the third.
“We let our foot off of the gas pedal a bit,” said Impett.
Cue the heroics.
Face-off late in the Oilers zone. Winterhawks win the draw. They pass it around, eventually getting the puck to a defenceman. The defenceman takes a shot but it’s blocked by Owen Bowden. Bowden races to gobble up the loose puck on the break. Goes in alone. Wrist shot beats the goaltender catcher-side with 2.9 seconds left on the clock. 4-3 Oilers. Final score.
“We all erupted,” said Impett. “He had the sore foot to show for it after it was done, but that’s a goal we won’t soon forget — one of the most exciting finishes I’ve been a part of.”
Bowden wasn’t the only one nursing a sore foot, Impett added.
“Gavin Rose fought through a foot injury all weekend and he was a great presence out there,” he said. “Nathan Pound-Harris was great in goal for us all weekend, too.”