It was a game when everything came together for the Under-13 Maple Creek Hawks.
The flashes of promise that coaching staff and fans had witnessed through the season glowed for three periods against Wood River on Sunday.
Yes, there were eye-catching solo performances: Nova Graham’s goaltending heroics, for instance, and Walker Thomson’s marksmanship that accounted for eight goals.
However, the 10-3 victory at the Maple Creek Community Arena resulted more from an outstanding team effort than individual brilliance. The longer the game progressed, the more confident the Hawks became. It reached the stage where every time they went on the offensive, a goal seemed inevitable. What a shame that this was one of the last games of the season. Had they played like this earlier, and received their fair share of luck, they would surely have been in the top half of the U13 division in the Southwest Saskatchewan Hockey league, competing in the play-offs.
Jesse Graham, assistant coach, had nothing but superlatives for his team.
“They were good – that was a 100 per cent effort,” he said. “Everyone came to play today. It was nice to see. We’ve had some tough breaks in previous games, but today it all came together and it was nice to see.
“There were lots of smiles on faces. It was fun to see, fun to watch.”
Nova was thrilled with the win.
“I think the team played very well,” he said. “It was one of the best games of the year.”
What made the difference?
“Our defence was really good and we shut down their best players.”
Nova re-enacted two of his best saves.
“I made one save where I slid over to the left, and then one to the right,” he said, adding: “I’m really happy that we won that game. We have only got two games left, so I’m hoping that we win the rest of them. We’ve got two games to get into 8th or 7th place.”
As the Hawks had a short bench, Sunday’s game provided an unexpected chance for 10-year-old Ryder Nash to perform at a higher age level. Normally he plays with the Under-11s
“He is an affiliated player and one of the up-and-coming guys,” said Graham.
Did he enjoy the experience?
“It was pretty good,” said Ryder. “I think we hustled a lot. It was a good team effort. We played a complete game.”