Emboldened by a major invitation, the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs are eager to build a full head of steam for the coming weeks ahead.
After all, when you earn a formal invitation to one of the biggest midget hockey tournaments in Western Canada, you want momentum on your side.
The Chiefs have won five of their last six games since learning they would be competing at the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament in Calgary, which begins during the last week of December.
In that time they’ve out-scored their B.C. Major Midget league rivals 37-16, including a pair of wins last weekend over the South Island Royals.
“It is always one of the goals we have at the start of the season, and this will be my fourth (Mac’s) since joining the organization (as an assistant coach),” said coach Jeff Urekar.
It’s not just any tourney, either. Stacked with many of the best midget-aged teams from across Western Canada, central and western U.S. and European clubs, the Mac’s is renowned for being scouting central during the final week of the year.
The Chiefs are playing well and have shown over the past month that the berth was deserved.
In Saturday’s 6-3 win, Jack Steffens tallied twice as the Northeast squad built up a 3-0 lead in the first period. South Island answered back in the second and pulled within a goal, before defenceman James Bohn fired in the eventual game-winning goal.
Quinton Hill, Sam Schofield and Dylan Wilson rounded out the offence, while Burnaby netminder Michael Harroch collected the win.
Harroch was back in net Sunday to backstop the 6-1 decision. In that contest, Nicolas Roussel counted a pair of goals and two helpers to spark the team past the ninth-place Royals.
Team captain Dante Ballarin, a New West native, and Logan Kurki were coming off a major achievement the night prior – both made their B.C. Hockey League debuts as callups for the Coquitlam junior A Express on Saturday.
They made their presence known by each scoring a goal in the Express’ 8-4 win, with Ballarin’s standing as the game winner.
“It was great to see them both get on the scoreboard,” said Urekar. “They’re all working towards climbing the junior hockey ladder, and we’re extremely pleased when our players get these opportunities.”
Murphy-Johnson is using his six-foot-two frame and looking the part of a defender, noted Urekar.
“He’s embraced the defence role and been a shutdown guy for us.”
This weekend’s games in Kelowna, where they play the fourth-place Rockets in a doubleheader, are the last action before a holiday break. It also sets the table before a brief breather, leading into the trip to Calgary.
“It’s very fast-paced hockey. We’re taking an older group this year, so I expect us to really do well.”