OHA Penticton General Manager, Scott May takes a look back on the U15 Prep team experience at the 2023 44th Annual John Reid Memorial Cup that took place a few weeks ago in Edmonton, Alberta.
The OHA U15 Prep team started their JRMT journey in an early Thursday morning game against the Red Deer Rebels. Coming out of the gates fast, OHA didn’t look back as the offense took over from the drop of the puck and didn’t let up until the final whistle. Game one ended 7-2 for OHA, giving the team confidence and allowing players to settle their nerves and adjust to the prestigious John Reid Memorial Tournament atmosphere. Mathis Preston led the way with a 6-goal performance, paving the way for what would be an early tournament scoring lead.
Next, the team faced the Regina Monarchs, displaying some common ‘second game of the day’ mistakes. However, OHA found a way to come out on top, with several players finding the back of the net and contributing to a 6-4 victory. Goal scorers included Liam Ruck, Markus Ruck, Nate MacPhee, Mathis Preston, Tyson Schamehorn & Kadyn O’Brien.
On day two, the team faced off in a single game against St. Georges School with one goal in mind:
Finishing 1st in their pool.
OHA took advantage of a couple of power play chances and made good on 2/3 in the first period to take at 4-1 lead. Twins Markus & and Liam Ruck contributed to two more goals in the second for OHA to take a 6-2 lead heading into the third. The line of Schamehorn, Keegan Bailey & O’Brien continued their dominance and added one more in the third before Liam Ruck buried his second of the game, pushing the score to 8.
OHA qualified for the quarter-finals kicking off Saturday morning against the home team favourite: The St. Albert Saints. Once again, OHA came out buzzing and got things going with a timely goal from Maddox Bentley. Score 1-0. OHA added two more to extend their lead to 3-0 before taking their foot off the gas and letting St. Albert back in the game.
A much-needed power play goal from Gavin Lesiuk, set up by the Rucks, turned the momentum late in the second, giving the team renewed energy in the third. Mathis Preston scored two and Will Scott added another to wrap things up with a 7-3 win.
Later the same day, OHA Penticton enter the semi-finals against a very skilled Airdrie Xtreme.
Earlier in the year, Airdrie had come out on top, so OHA was ready to battle. OHA took an early lead getting one in the first five minutes and it was 1-0 to end the first. Another quick one to start the second put OHA up 2-0 before the teams traded goals, and the second ended 3-2. OHA held on to the very end before sealing the game with an empty net goal to secure the 4-2 victory.
This was one of the better games for OHA U15 Prep, as their discipline limited their time in the penalty box and there was a rhythm to their play. Every player contributed to this victory, giving cause for a great celebration as the team awaited their next opponent, Shattuck St. Mary’s.
In the highly anticipated Championship game against Shattuck St. Mary, both teams needed to dig deep and find a little extra to push through their sixth game in four days. Despite their best efforts, OHA fell short of the tournament favourite. The boys battled hard and scored a couple of goals late to bridge the gap, and the game ended 7-4 with the boys being rewarded with the silver medal.
To be able to recap the tournament weeks later with such clarity of the events confirms the impression our U15 Prep team made, not only on the parents, coaches, and management but all spectators of this highly coveted event. The who’s who of the hockey industry saw first-hand what OHA Penticton is capable of. We could not be more proud of how our team and coaches represented the Okanagan Hockey brand. Individually, and as a team, U15 Prep showcased their talents by putting in the hard work, showing their comradery, determination, and a will to win.
Vice President, Dixon Ward attended the event in support of all of the Okanagan Hockey teams participating: OHA Penticton, OHA Edmonton, and Okanagan Hockey Colorado.
“We are very proud of the group for achieving a great result and representing OHG and the City of Penticton with class, professionalism, and competitive spirit. We would like to recognize our award winners as well as the entire group for their effort, skill, and character. These traits will undoubtedly give them all great opportunities moving forward.”- Dixon Ward
OHA is proud to acknowledge the following recognition awarded to 2008 Penticton born Forward, and Assistant Captain, Mathis Preston: Mathis received the 1st team All-Star, Tournament Top Forward, and Tournament MVP. Mathis was the Points Leader with 19 points overall in the tournament. Liam and Markus Ruck rounded out the top 3 with 17 and 14 points respectively.
U15 Prep Head Coach, Craig Bedard shared his thoughts on the JRMT MVP and the overall team experience: “Mathis has worked very hard on his game and is extremely dedicated to his craft. As a team, we are thrilled to see that hard work and sacrifice pay off with him being named tournament MVP. He and our leadership group did an outstanding job working with their teammates to manage the adversity we faced in a positive way and stay the course.”
A determined group effort and depth of skill made an impact in the round-robin, spurring our boys forward to the finals. The Player of the Game award was given out after each game by the opposing team coaches.
Over the course of the tournament, the Player of the Game awarded were received by Mathis Preston (x3) Gavin Lesiuk, and Liam Ruck
Heart & Hustle Awards were awarded to Kadyn O’Brien (x3) Maddox Bentley and Max Reed
“As a staff, we are extremely proud of how our group competed and more importantly conducted themselves over the JRMT. Seeing the team’s growth over the season is a testament to their effort and perseverance to improve each day. The biggest contributing factor to our success was the ability of each player to not just accept, but embrace their roles to make the team better. Everyone from our goaltenders on up the roster made a positive difference.”- Head Coach, Craig Bedard
Thank you to the event organizers and volunteers of the St Albert Raiders Hockey Club and St. Albert Minor Hockey Association for an incredible experience and memories to last a lifetime!
Photo Credit: Tim Osbourne Photography