BY / MARK JANZEN
The annual Thanksgiving-weekend Chilliwack Bantam AAA Tournament is back for another go-round and this might be the best year yet.
The 16-team tournament, which runs Oct. 5 to 8 at Twin Rinks, will once again feature some of the best Bantam-aged teams in British Columbia along with a top-notch newcomer in the Calgary Bantam AAA Flames.
“It should be another excellent tournament this year,” said Chilliwack head coach Garnett Wendel. “With so many quality teams from B.C. and a ‘AAA’ team from Calgary, it should be exciting.”
And, as is traditionally the case, the tournament will play host to teams that are not simply amongst the best in their respective provinces but also amongst the upper echelon across Western Canada.
Last year’s finalists and perennial contenders for the Western Canadian crown, North Shore Winter Club and Burnaby Winter Club, are back for another crack at early-season glory. With NSWC knocking off BWC 2-0 in last year’s final there’s no doubt a little retribution is on the minds of the boys from Burnaby while the North Shore kids will be searching to build on past success.
But while the highly-touted Winter Clubs will certainly return this year with strong clubs, there is plenty of impressive competition to knock them from their pedestal. With teams like Langley and Abbotsford and hockey schools like Pursuit of Excellence and Okanagan Hockey Academy in the mix, there’s sure to be plenty of excitement at what is always one of the most heavily-scouted Thanksgiving tournaments.
And as for the host team from Chilliwack, they’ll certainly be in tough, but, in saying that, they’re also a much-improved side that is ready to see how they stack up against the best in B.C.
“Early in the season, it’s hard to say how we’ll do but we do have a lot more skill than last year so hopefully we’ll be in the running,” Wendel said. “This tournament helps us figure out what we need to work on most to make us better as a team.”
The tournament is also a qualifier for the 40th Annual Major Bantam Hockey Tournament in Medicine Hat Nov. 15 to 18 as the top four teams in Chilliwack earn a spot in Medicine Hat. The tournament championship game is Monday at 2:00 p.m.
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