After the long COVID hiatus, hockey received the homecoming it deserved at Maple Creek skating rink on Friday evening.
The Under-18s Maple Creek Hawks and Assiniboia Stingers staged a thrilling, see-sawing spectacle that kept spectators constantly engaged.
At the end, it was the home fans who had most to shout about after the Hawks came away with a 4-3 win, thanks to goals in each period from Levi Bowyer, Walker Brown and Hunter Braniff, who found the net twice.
In the fourth goal, Braniff was assisted by Brown and Chance Eiserman.
When the final buzzer sounded, Hawks players gathered in a jubilant huddle in their goal zone. It was clear how much the victory meant to them. It was also clear how much they owed to their goaltender Mathew Knight, who pulled off several match-winning saves in the third period.
The Hawks and Assiniboia are competing in Pool A in the Southwest Saskatchewan Hockey League. Other teams in the pool are Swift Current Knights, and Wood River. Pool B teams are Gull Lake, Swift Current Wild, Shaunavon, and Glentworth.
Wayne Resch, the Hawks coach, was delighted with his team’s performance.
“We held it together for three periods,” he said. “We’ve had two weeks of pretty good practices. It’s a really good starting point for going into next weekend when we have two games.”
Resch said the Hawks players were local kids, who knew each other well.
“They worked hard during the game, and they got rewarded with a ‘w’, so that’s always a good thing.”
Resch said it had been a very even contest.
“Assiniboia have got some good players. We had to know which ones they were. Their goalie played pretty well, so that didn’t make it easy for us. We somehow came through with more goals than they did at the end of 60 minutes, so that’s a good thing.”
Resch praised the contribution of Mathew Knight.
“We have two of the better goalies in the league and so our goalie made some key saves in the third period to keep us in it, absolutely. It gives me an immense amount of confidence, because if we make mistakes up ice, sometimes the goalies can bail you out. We have two good goalies, and that showed with the play of Matt tonight.”
The Hawks have little time to rest.
“We’ll have two practices next week, and two games next weekend,” said Resch. “We have a busy time coming up.”
He added that practice would focus on “neutral ice stuff”.
“Don’t lose track on where you are supposed to be, don’t lose track of the man you are supposed to be covering. We will do that kind of stuff. “
The U18 Hawks are next in action on Saturday, November 6, in a home game against Swift Current Knights. It starts at 7pm.
The next day they play Assiniboia at Assiniboia Civic Center. Face-off is at 2pm.