Wild times, we are feeling the chills and thrills of winter, while at the Chaos Castle we are feeling different thrills and chills with HEAT hockey. Four thoughts cross one’s mind, which is three more then usual.
Wrangle tangles and Heat feats. Friday night the 10thyour Team at the Art Holding Memorial Arena faced off versus the 100 Mile House WRANGLERS. It was a ‘four point game” as the Doug Birks Division rivals are 2ndand 3rd, and the space between could be greater or smaller, all dependent on the outcome. Through 59 of 60 minutes this was anyone’s game, and for days afterward the town was buzzing. A small crowd of 180 fans of both teams braved the elements to bite nails, claw out hair and sit on seat edges. In the 1stLuke Recchi started the show with apples for Jayden Russell and Cam Watson. Less then 8 minutes later the Cariboo crew got a puck past the red line, 1-1 after 1. In the 2ndperiod 100 Mile House gained the lead momentarily, before HEAT leading scorer Breckin Erichuk got a mesh bender from his friends Colton Nikiforuk and Hayden Wiebe, its 2-2 after 2.
In the 3rda seriously energized Nikiforuk waited until 53 seconds left to break loose from the blue line in, to deposit the vulcanized rubber in the twine. Some sharp passing from Caleb Biensch and Gavin Mattey gave them supporting actor awards in a spine chilling drama. Up by 1, the rival tender was pulled, with the result an empty net counter from Wiebe, assisted by Nikiforuk and Erichuk. The end credits noting a 4-2 win for the HEAT, with “Benny in the net” Bennedetto stopping 23 of 25. Star of the game, Colton Nikiforuk with a goal and two assists. The HEAT got a little more breathing room between them and the WRANGLERS.
Six from sticks on KNIGHT night. Led by stellar stopping from Dylan Barton, the HEAT visited the North Okanagan KNIGHTS in Armstrong, Saturday the 11th. The depleted roster of the HEAT due to injury and illness pulled up their socks in this contest, that was relatively free of penalties. In the 1stperiod Evan Vinterlik started the activities with a man advantage tally from Jacob Biensch and Danton L’Heureux. Nikiforuk added to that with his own powerplay goal from Erichuk and Wiebe, after 20 minutes it was 2-0. In the 2ndnewly acquired Cameron McKenzie from Erichuk and Matthew Poole expanded the lead. That was followed by Mattey assisted by Watson, prior to “Nifty” Nikiforuk scoring unassisted. After 40 the score 5-0. In the final stanza the hard driving duo of Russell with the goal and Vinterlik with the assist sealed the deal. At games end the HEAT won 6-0 with Barton starring with a shutout stopping 26 shots. A total of 4 very valuable points gained over a weekend of adversity due to injuries and illness.
Breaks, bruises, concussions and contusions. Hockey is a fast game filled with contact, errant sticks and elbows, that play a toll on both the physical and mental well-being of athletes. Up until the seasonal break the HEAT had been fairly fortunate in man games lost. Since the turn from 19 to 2020 the illnesses popping up have been beyond sniffles and sneezes, the boys play through that stuff. Injuries have mounted up, some of them of significant length. Bruises are played through, serious contusions the percentage drops for ability to play, breaks are simply bad breaks for the team, the great kid is out until he fully mends. Concussions are in a category all to themselves, and there are way to many of them happening. In some cases a junior hockey career ends and sometimes a ride in an ambulance to an emergency ward is the result. There is a solution of course and it is staring us right in the face. Our national game needs decision makers to make decisions, officials need the ability to error on the side of safety, long suspensions, heavy fines, whatever it is make it happen. It’s a game, our game, and the players have the right to live long and productive healthy lifes.
Last weeks resolutions. Another attempt will be made to encourage the crowds to grow at HEAT home games. After last week’s scribbles on ideas and reasons for game attendance the HEAT played before 180 fans. If you are waiting to jump on a bandwagon, it has been going all season, don’t wait any longer. If you are already a faithful fan, thank you! Bring a friend or two to the coming games, twist their arms. We are a small town and fortunate to have the quality of winter entertainment we do. The HEAT are currently 6thoverall in combined standings in the 20 team league and 2ndin their Division. Attending a game is more than a hockey game, it’s a socializing opportunity where you can chat with friends and make new ones, get a bite to eat, dance in your seat, jump to your feet. Please think about it, the entire organization would appreciate it, without your support there may not be a team in the future…we need YOU!