In one corner, it is the Valley West Hawks’ high scoring offence, and in the other, it is the stingy defence of the Lloydminster Bobcats.
But only one of those two will prevail as B.C.’s best prepares to go up against the Alberta champion with the winner representing the Pacific Region at the upcoming Telus Cup major midget national championships, which run April 18-24 in New Brunswick.
The best-of-three series begins today (Friday) and runs through the weekend and is being hosted by Lloydminster.
The Bobcats won the Alberta championship after sweeping the Foothills Bisons in a best-of-five series last week. Even more impressive was the fact Lloydminster did not allow a single goal in the three games.
By contrast, the Hawks offence was in full effect, scoring 13 goals in a two-game sweep of the Cariboo Cougars to win the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League title. And in five playoff games, they have only been held below four goals once, a 2-1 loss.
And in the clinching game, it was a pair of Langley products doing the bulk of the damage as James Malm scored four goals and set up one other while Christian Bosa had a goal and five helpers.
“We are just going to have to play a complete game, all 60 minutes,” Malm offered.
“Getting pucks on net, working hard, winning every shift.”
Malm played less than half the season with the Hawks.
The 16-year-old began the season in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants.
But after 25 games — and just two assists — he was cut from the team.
But rather than sit and stew, Malm used it as a learning experience.
“Obviously I wasn’t happy at the time, but coming back, playing a lot has really benefited me,” he said.
“Coming down (to major midget) really boosted my confidence.”
In 18 games with the Hawks, Malm had 14 goals and 43 points, finishing 11th in the league scoring race despite playing less than half the 40-game regular season schedule.
This comes on the heals of last season when Malm was second in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League scoring race with 20 goals and 66 points in 31 games. He was just one point behind the league leader despite playing seven fewer games.
“That was what we expected with James, we expected him to come in and be a difference maker for us and to be a leader for us as well,” said Hawks head coach Jessie Leung, who also coached Malm last season.
“Just knowing James I knew he wasn’t the type to sulk and I knew he would make the best of the situation.”
Malm has also scored 19 points in the team’s seven playoff games, bettering the old league record of 18 set in 2014 by Tyson Jost, who is expected to be taken in the first round of this June’s NHL entry draft.
Malm has centred the Hawks top line with Surrey’s Michael Farren on one wing and Bosa on the other.
Malm and Bosa also have history together, beyond their time with the Hawks, as they also played a year of bantam together with the Langley A1 Eagles.
Bosa finished second in the league with 30 goals in 40 games and was fourth with 56 points.
He built on last year’s numbers with Valley West when he had 23 goals and 44 points in 40 games.
“Christian had always been a bit of a streaky scorer,” Leung said.
“He would go a couple of games without and then he would go on a torrid pace for two or three games.
“We definitely saw a lot more consistency this season.”
While the five-foot-nine, 170-pound Malm is a smaller, shiftier player, Bosa is a big-bodied six-foot-187-pounder who keeps things simple.
“I crash the net pretty hard and pick up rebounds, stuff like that. I get the odd shot here and there,” Bosa said. “I go to the corners, that is my kind of game, my role, going to the dirty areas.
“I realized that I have a role on the team to play and I should stick to that and not try to play out of my range.”
Another big difference has been the added experience of having one season of major midget under his belt.
“This year, I knew what the league was all about,” he said.
Having chemistry and familiarity with Malm also helps.
“We were all pretty excited when he came back,” Bosa said.
This is Bosa’s last season of major midget hockey as he turns 18 in a few weeks time. He is signed on to play junior A with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express.
For Malm, who turns 17 in June, he could have one more season of major midget but has his sights set on sticking with the Giants.
“I have talked to a few people in the WHL who didn’t play in the league as 16-year-olds,” he said. “They just said to keep my head up.
“In the long run, (coming down) has been really beneficial.”