Spitfires slay Monsters
About five minutes into his team’s first practice this season, coach Paul Robson knew he had something special with the Langley Spitfires.
All season long, the team confirmed that, and on Sunday afternoon, the magical season came to a close with the Spitfires winning the Langley bantam Cup with a 3-1 victory over the Langley Monsters.
Not only did the victory help the team complete its ‘six-pack’ of goals for the season, it also capped off an unbeaten season, as the team went an eye-popping 51-0-2.
“We agreed we weren’t going to focus on how big our kids were,” Robson said about the philosophy he and assistant coach Tony Stephenson came up with. “We wanted skill, we wanted kids who knew how to play the game.
“We pushed them: five minutes into our first practice, we were running some pretty high-end drills and not only were they already getting them, but they were pushing themselves to be better right from the beginning.”
Heading into the draft to divide the bantam (13 and 14-year-olds) into teams before the season began, Robson and Stephenson had a list of 25 players they were targeting.
“It is a wish list, you don’t know who you are getting,” Robson said of the 16 players they wound up with.
“We knew 12 of them very well, one of them pretty well, and then a couple of them we didn’t know that much of, but they ended up being just as good as the kids we knew.”
As the top team in the Cup playoffs, the Spitfires received a bye in the opening round of the weeklong Langley Cup playoffs.
In the quarter-finals, they defeated the Roughriders 11-3 and then downed the Spartans 7-5.
That set up the finals against the Monsters.
And as has been the case for much of the season, the Spitfires came out firing, outshooting the Monsters 15-3 in the first period. But the score was tied 1-1 at intermission, with Kyle Moree opening the scoring for the Spitfires, before Jonathan Price tied it with a short-handed goal.
In the second period, Tyler Walker and Alec Robson/Jesse Holdsworth both found the back of the net for the two-goal advantage the Spitfires would not relinquish.
“We just locked them down in the third period, I think they had two shots,” the coach said.
Robson also commended the Monsters’ goaltender for an amazing effort, especially considering the Spitfires were accustomed to scoring in excess of five or six goals per game.
But there was no panic in the Spitfires.
“The boys were so calm,” Robson said. “We had a rule that we weren’t going to complain. We were just going to be a team, no excuses, whatever happens, happens.
“We were just going to play our game and if we win, we win as a team, and if we don’t, we don’t.”
While the undefeated season was nice, the Spitfires’ original goal was what the team called the ‘six-pack’: winning all three of its tournaments, the league banner, the playoff banner and the Langley Cup.
“As the season went on, (the players) started to realize they had a chance to do something amazing,” Robson said.
“I could tell the odd game where we weren’t full speed, but we had just enough to win.
“There were a couple (of games) where they had to dig down deeper.”
The team’s lone blemishes were a game in November and then the final league game.
While other Langley Minor Hockey Association teams have had outstanding seasons with just one loss, this is believed to be the first time a squad has gone unbeaten over the course of a full season.
The team is made up of: Levi Arabsky, Aaron Flach, Brandon Galbraith, Cameron Gangloff, Jesse Holdsworth, James Humble, Gage Jensen, Dallas Lang, Justin Lecuyer, Dylan Logan-Garlough, Kyle Moree, Chevy Pankoski-Manning, Brett Reader, Alec Robson, Ben Stephenson and Tyler Walker.
The coaches are Paul Robson, Tony Stephenson, Dave Galbraith and Norm Reader and the managers are Connie Pankoski-Manning and Leanne Tasker.