POE wins KIBIHT again

Pursuit of Excellence got the hockey right, even if it got the celebration wrong.

POE, a hockey academy based in Kelowna, won the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre on Sunday. It was the second KIBIHT triumph in a row for POE, which beat the Spruce Grove Saints 5-2 in the final.

One would think that a team with experience at winning KIBIHT would handle the post-game celebration without incident. But POE jumped the gun - its players hopped off the bench and threw off their gloves with 1.2 seconds still on the clock.

The Saints didn't seem to care that much and the officials obviously didn't want to crash the party, so the timekeeper let the remaining time run off the clock.

"It's all good," said POE forward Curtis Lazar, who was named top forward in the tournament. "It's well worth it. We've been working toward this for a while."

Lazar was one of the main reasons POE received championship rings for a second year in a row. Playing like a human wrecking ball, the 15-year-old Vernon resident caused general mayhem on the forecheck all night long for the Saints.

By the time the late stages of the second period came around, the Spruce Grove defencemen were worn down by the persistent POE forecheck. When that happened, POE's speed took over.

"We were a little apprehensive at the start, kind of on our heels," said POE head coach Evan Marble. "In the second period, the boys found their stride and used their speed."

Don't let the final score throw you - the Saints were right in the game, and had ample opportunity to take a lead early in the game, which remained scoreless through the midway point. But whenever Spruce Grove got an opportunity, POE goaltender Jackson Whistle made a save, or a POE defenceman broke it up, or the shot went wide.

"Their goalie did a good job keeping them in it until they got an opportunity," said Saints head coach Craig Goebel, who was named the tournament's top coach. "It's a game of breaks, and when they got their breaks, they capitalized. We didn't."

After all of the Saints' chances, POE opened the scoring, at 10:02 of the second period, when Fraser Bulbuc slipped a rebound past Spruce Grove goaltender Wyatt Hoflin. Cole Sanford made it 2-0 with 3.3 seconds remaining in the period.

The floodgates opened in the third period, with Spruce Grove's Nelson Gadoury making it 2-1 32 seconds in, before POE's Gavin Broadhead and Sanford scored 22 seconds apart three minutes later.

The Saints' Jason Miller and POE's Chris Koukis traded goals 1:05 apart later in the third.

"This is all about the kids," Marble said. "This year, a great group of kids - it's really special to be able to come and win such a prestigious tournament."

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Kamloops Jardine's Blazers goaltender Ty Hamer-Jackson made some KIBIHT history in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Surrey Thunder.

Hamer-Jackson was credited with a goal after a Surrey player shot the puck into his own net with the Thunder goaltender pulled during a delayed Kamloops penalty. Since the last Kamloops player to touch the puck gets credit for the goal, Hamer-Jackson was awarded it and given the puck as a souvenir.

Kamloops ended up losing its last two games - including a 3-1 loss to the Vernon Renegades on Saturday - to finish eighth.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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