The Greater Vancouver Canadians are soaring through the inaugural season of B.C. Hockey’s Major Bantam League and are looking forward to stronger competition at a couple of high-profile tournaments over the next month.
The Canadians improved to 14-2-0-0 in league play with a 4-0 win over the Vancouver North West Hawks on Sunday at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Only the Okanagan Rockets (14-0-1-1) have a better record in the eight-team regional circuit.
They are coached by Adam Nugent-Hopkins — the older brother of the Edmonton Oilers star forward.
“We have playing well and are off to a good start,” he said. “We kind of have to work on the details to continue to get better because as we go to these tournaments we start playing stiffer competition. Those little things that you might get by doing against some teams you won’t against those top ones.”
That tournament exposure begins in the Bantam AAA Elite Division of the Pat Quinn Classic — Dec. 28-31. The Canadians get a huge test right out of the gate against the Burnaby Winter Club’s Bantam Elite squad. It will be their first time facing an academy team and there will be more games to come.
Greater Vancouver and Okanagan have been accepted into the prestigious 42nd annual John Reid Memorial Tournament in St. Albert in mid-January. The 20-team event is loaded with academy competition including four from B.C. — Delta Green, Yale, West Van and St. Georges.
B.C. Hockey representation in what is considered the premier Bantam tournament in Western Canada is a win in itself.
All it takes is a glance at the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft in recent years to understand the top 13-and-14-year-olds have been going the academy route.
The provincial organization wanted to create another option for families that kept kids closer to home and was more affordable too.
Unlike academies, the Major Bantam League does have player boundaries. The Canadians feature talent exclusively from Richmond, Delta and Vancouver. They still managed to attract around 70 players to initial tryouts.
“We are extremely excited and quite humbled to be accepted into the (Reid) tournament,” continued Nugent-Hopkins. “We are looking to build this (league) one step at a time. Getting the opportunity to play in these big tournaments will open up the eyes of some families and parents that may want the chance to play locally at the elite level and not go to an academy.
“John Reid is the benchmark. It’s the Macs tournament for Bantams. We hope we can perform well and at least be competitive. It’s a learning experience for a lot of these kids. Over the years they are probably use to playing flight two or a little lower than this level, especially when you start to play those academy programs that are pretty much spring hockey teams that are selected from much of Western Canada. There is still a lot for them to learn along the way.”
The Canadians roster features: Ryan Nimi, Brandon Petrie, Ben Cowell, Thomas Wang, Charlie Derrheim, Will Sharpe, Dylan Nazareth, Massimo Fazio, JJ Milne, William McColman, Jack Dipaolo, Grady Lenton, Tyler Thorpe, Kai Belanger, Jamie Hikida, Matthew Hikida, Bryce Strandt, Remy Quintoro, Markus Lam.
Lenton, the team captain, sits third in league scoring with 23 points in 16 games, including 14 goals. Quintoro leads all netminders with a 9-0-0 record and 0.96 goals against average with two shutouts.