Finding a place to stand was nearly impossible during the Midget A Fountain Tire Wolves’ first game of the Hockey Alberta provincials last weekend.
The Wolves hosted the Midget B provincials from Thursday, March 19 to 22 and large crowds came out to support the team each time they played. The weekend was an opportunity to showcase Ponoka’s Midget A team and organizers used Ponoka’s first game to recognize past players.
Before playing against the Viking Gas Kings, a memorial was held for three Ponoka Minor Hockey Association (PMHA) players: Brett Weise, Brandon Schur and Copper Tonneson.
The untimely deaths of these three young men left a mark on many in Ponoka’s minor hockey community and the association wanted to recognize them with a ceremony. Bantam coach Dwayne Rausch, along with PMHA president Julie Feragen and vice-president Geoff Tatlow presented banners of the players’ jersey numbers to parents in front of a large crowd.
Tournament chairperson Laurie Jansen said the PMHA felt it was important to honour their lives. Those banners will be hoisted in the arena wall for posterity.
Organizers open doors to the public
After the Town of Ponoka waived the arena rental fees, tournament committee organizers decided to open the games to the public. Jensen feels the decision to do that created an open atmosphere and she said there were many times the stands were full of hockey fans.
Jansen says the arena was full many times over the weekend parents and hockey fans cheering on their teams.
“We decided that this was about the boys playing hockey,” said Jansen.
Third year players on all teams were recognized at the end of their games on Saturday with a small gift. “The third year gifts were a huge hit.”
“It was really an emotional time for some of those players,” she added.
Support was strong from the community and Jansen said businesses and individuals stepped up to help out with plans.
Wolves couldn’t get to semi-finals
Competition was fierce over the weekend with many close games leaving the Wolves scrambling to make a spot in the semi-finals.
To make a semi-finals berth, the Wolves had to defeat the Westlock Warriors on their Saturday game by nine points. The Warriors, however, put on a strong performance and the Wolves ended up tying the game 4-4, which put an end to their chances.
Captain Jordan Wombold said hosting was a great experience for the entire team.
Coach Ryan Koehli said despite their overall provincials performance, this was the first time every single player was in full uniform and on the bench. The team had to deal with injuries most of the season and played a third of it with only 10 players.
“Our game on Thursday night was the first time all season the entire team had dressed and been on the bench together,” said head coach Ryan Koehli.
He said the team enjoyed playing in front of large crowds.
The Wolves tied their first game 4-4 against the Viking Gas Kings, the eventual provincials winners. They lost their second game 7-3 against the Vermilion Credit Union Tigers and then tied against Westlock.
Wombold said the biggest focus for players against Vermillion was trying to stick to the basics of hockey. He said the team got into some penalty trouble.
There are 12 players aging out of the midget team this year.