The Stettler Storm went to work on their March break.
The midget B Storm defeated the Rocky Mountain House Renegades in back-to-back games last week to sweep the best-of-three Tier 3 Grizzlies Division championship in the North Central Minor Hockey Association.
“They never quit,” Stettler coach Keith Werbowesky said of his players.
“They kept playing hard and never quit — and got rewarded for it. The biggest thing was that they really brought that never-quit attitude.”
Tristan Laughlin scored with 14.5 seconds left to give the Storm a 5-4 victory in Game 2 last Wednesday at Eckville Arena.
That negated the need for a third game Thursday night at the Stettler Recreation Centre, where the Storm won the series-opener 9-1 last Tuesday.
It amounted to an eventful week for the Storm, who were in the middle of their spring break from school. Their league championship came just three days after the Stettler midget A team won the provincial midget B championship.
The midget B Storm ended their season in style, as players with varying talent levels came together in the name of a common cause.
“When you’re coaching the B team, you get some kids that could play on the A team, you get some middle kids and you get some of the beginner-style kids, but they all played well,” Werbowesky said.
“They all did what was asked of them to do. They really gelled together as the year went on.”
The first-place Storm posted a 5-1 record in their NCMHA division playoffs. After earning a first-round bye, they went 3-1 in a three-team round-robin series before sweeping Rocky in the final.
Two members of the Stettler B team, Levi Fisher and Zack Werbowesky, also won gold medals with the Stettler midget A team that earned the provincial midget B title.
“Zack and Levi both played on and off throughout the year with the A team, and then they got called up for the provincials,” said coach Werbowesky, Zack’s father. “They helped the (A) team win their provincial banner, and then they came back to us and played well. They were both leaders on our team, and that’s what we needed.
“Stettler minor hockey, as a whole, had a pretty good year. There are quite a few banners to go hang up in the rink. That’s good to see.”
Stettler’s medal haul included three provincial championships and five league championship banners.
The midget B team iced the town’s storied season with a dramatic victory that earned game-winning scorer Laughlin the Storm’s hard-hat honours in the final.
“The hard hat was given to the hardest-working player of the game, or the player that we felt was the best role model for the team, for that game,” Werbowesky said of the playoff feature.
“So everybody wore it at a different time, and at the end of the year, we had the entire team sign it, because they all deserved to sign it.
“Tristan wore it out (of the rink after the final game). One player always wore it out, but the players that played really well that game got to sign the hat.”
STETTLER 5 ROCKY 4 — Braydon Whiteford scored a pair of second-period power-play goals and assisted on Brycen Bainbridge’s tally.
Kyle Froese’s short-handed goal put Stettler ahead 4-3 with eight minutes left in regulation time, but Rocky’s Jared Sadek tied the score with 2:11 remaining.
That set the stage for Laughlin’s heroics. Werbowesky and Tanner Steinwand assisted on the series-clinching goal. Laughlin and Jordan Fisher each had two-point games.
STETTLER 9 ROCKY 1 — The Storm led 2-0 after the first period and opened a 6-1 lead in the second.
Levi and Jordan Fisher each scored two goals and three points. Bainbridge, Froese, Steinwand and Brandon Kent each collected a goal and an assist, and Will Whiteside closed the scoring with a power play marker.
Jarret Hampton made 20 saves in Stettler’s net.