Lac la Hache Tomahawks played the first game of their franchise career on Oct. 1 by visiting the Williams Lake Stampeders.
It ended in a 14-5 loss, but Tomahawks coach Al Navrot says his team played with a lot of heart against what may be the best team in the senior “A” Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL).
“The Stampeders have quite a bit of depth and skill and maybe our guys were a bit overwhelmed. We did score the first goal, though, and just got stronger from there,” says Navrot, an 18-year coaching veteran.
“Five goals are enough to win a game. We just have to figure out how to keep them out of our net.”
Tomahawks’, Ryan Minnabarriet from Ashcroft, assisted by Willis Harry, scored the opening goal of the game at 1:24, into the first period, but Stampeders, Tyler Fuller answered back in just over half a minute.
Minnabarriet received a five-minute penalty and game ejection in the second period for an elbowing major. His brother, Kyle Minnabarriet suffered the same consequences in the third period for a fighting major infraction.
Tye Moses of Williams Lake and Anthony Robbins of Alkali Lake each contributed unassisted goals for Lac la Hache in the second period, and in the third, Robbins found the net again. Jeremy Zelt from 100 Mile House scored his first goal as a Tomahawk near the end of the third period.
Roy Nichol was named the Tomahawks player of the game.
“He was consistent and played hard all the way through, and he’s a team leader,” Navrot says, adding Nichol and team captain Dave Archie both contribute stability in the dressing room.
Tomahawks goaltender William Sellars, who was with the Stampeders in 2009 when they won the CIHL Coy Cup, put in 33:29 in net, making 20 saves on 28 shots and Brody Borg spent 26:31 between the pipes, taking 23 shots and making 17 saves.
Along with Nichol and Zelt, 100 Mile House players on the team include Borg, Dustin Price and Jordan Barnes. Steve Daniels from Canim Lake also made the cut.
Navrot says there are a few more Canim Lake and 100 Mile House boys still skating with them.
The Tomahawks had only one practice prior to their opening game and Navrot says he believes that in time, they will be able to close the gap.
“After the game, we faced reality and know what we have to do. We have to improve on defence and that will start this week. We know we need more discipline and awareness and have to take more responsibility.
“This is a progression, not a profession. I’ve been through this with new teams many times.”
He adds there is a lot of experience on the team and he’s satisfied with their start.
“I really look forward to working with these guys to get that special feeling that gets the passion up, but it takes time to develop spirit within a team. We have to build that mental strength and commitment for the team and for each other.”
The Tomahawks’ next games are Oct. 8 in Hazelton and Oct. 9 in Smithers.
They play home games in Lac la Hache at the Rolf Zeis Memorial Arena on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. with Quesnel, and Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. with Hazelton.