Courtesy: HockeyNow (via: http://www.hockeynow.ca)
By: Neil Hilts
Three-time Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup Champs Team Alberta started out 2-0 through the tournament’s first two days, while Saskatchewan found themselves in an 0-2 hole.
The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, an annual showcase for the top Midget and Bantam players from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, began Wednesday, Oct. 28at the Markin McPhail Centre in Calgary.
The tournament’s first game pitted Saskatchewan against Manitoba and the eastern province squeaked out a win. Manitoba led 4-2 entering the third, but managed just five shots on net in the final period.
Saskatchewan was only able to tally once more, falling just a goal short, 4-3 the final. Manitoba had four players with two points: Rylan Bettens, 2A (2015 Brandon Wheat Kings), Riley Stotts 1G, 1A (2015 Swift Current Broncos), Justin Nachbaur 2G (2015 Prince Albert Raiders), and Koby Morrisseau 1G, 1A (2015 Spokane Chiefs).
Wednesday’s nightcap saw defending champs Alberta outplay BC in all facets, winning the game 6-3, while outshooting their opponents 36-22.
Alberta was paced by two goals from both Nicholas Bowman (Edmonton Oil Kings 2015) and Josh Prokop (Swift Current Broncos 2015). For Team BC, Captain and top d-man Ethan Cap, one of Edmonton’s two first round selections in 2015, led his team with two assists and a plus one rating.
Despite not scoring any points, the Lloydminster native and 2015 WHL first overall pick by the Spokane Chiefs, Ty Smith, the captain for Team Alberta, logged heavy minutes in his team’s win.
On Thursday, Alberta faced Saskatchewan in the afternoon game and moved to 2-0 with a 3-2 hard-fought win. Alberta started 3-0 early on with goals from Chase Wouters (Saskatoon Blades 2015), Eric Florchuk (Victoria Royals 2015) and Tristen Nielsen (2015 Calgary Hitmen).
Carson Focht (Tri-City Americans 2015) scored two goals just over two minutes apart in the second period for Manitoba, but could not tie the game up. Alberta’s Nicholas Bowman added an assist, bringing his point total to a tournament-leading three after two games.
Manitoba sought to stay perfect against BC, but the west coast squad was too much, winning 4-2 on the strength of two goals each from Kabir Gill (Seattle Thunderbirds 2015) and Luke Zazula (Kamloops Blazers 2015), along with two assists from Liam Kindree (Kelowna Rockets 2015). Manitoba’s Justin Nachbaur added his third goal of tournament, tops among all players.
On Friday, Saskatchewan (0-2) will face BC (1-1) desperate for their first win and chance to battle for a spot in the final, while Alberta (2-0) faces Manitoba (1-1) in hopes of locking up a bye.
Saturday features second versus third, while Sunday will have the bronze medal and gold medal matches.
The U16 Challenge Cup started in 2009* and has seen numerous players go onto the NHL and other pro circuits. Notable alumni include Matt Dumba, Morgan Reilly, Derrick Pouliot and Griffin Reinhart, to name a few.
*No tournament played in 2010 and 2014 due to the Canada Winter Games.
Link to HN article: http://hockeynow.ca/major-junior/alberta-remains-team-to-beat-after-first-two-days-of-2015-whl-u16-chllenge-cup