Jan 13, 2013 / 5:00 am
Pursuit of Excellence will get a chance to exact some revenge when it meets Thunder Bay in Sunday's final of the Kelowna International Major Midget Tournament at Memorial Arena.
Both clubs advanced to Sunday's 12:30 final with semi-final wins Saturday night.
POE handed the Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Jr. Rockets their only loss of the tournament 3-1 while the Thunder Bay Kings doubled Burlington Eagles 4-2 in the other semi.
"That was our only loss of the tournament so we're looking for a little bit of revenge," says POE head coach Ryan Wade.
"They're a big, strong, physical team that plays hard - it's in that small arena so we're going to have to keep our heads up. They're going to come at us hard so we're going to try and match their intensity and go at them as hard as they came at us in the first game."
Intensity was no problem in the semi-final win over the Jr. Rockets.
POE, a private hockey program based out of Kelowna, took the game to the Jr. Rockets from the opening faceoff and were unlucky not to get a goal or two in the opening 20 minutes.
They finally got on the board five minutes into the second when Brody Saywell scored his first of two on the night.
Saywell doubled the lead two minutes into the third when he pounced on a rebound and buried his second into a wide open cage.
POE shut the door from there, giving the Jr. Rockets very little in the way of good scoring chances.
"I don't really like sitting back, I like them to keep attacking and stay on the offence but it's also six games in four days so they were getting tired," added Wade.
"I asked them to dig deep and find a little extra and they battled hard in the third and got us the win."
The Jr. Rockets had their chances, especially in the second when they were able to push back but whenever they had chances, Cody Porter stood his ground in the POE net.
The loss was the first for the Jr. Rockets who roared through the round robin with a perfect 5-0 record.
Despite falling a game short of the ultimate goal, head coach Eric Blais says he was proud of what the team was able to accomplish over the four days.
"I think we came further with that loss than we did with all of our other tournament wins," says Blais.
"We showed a lot of character this week. I was really proud of the boys. Being down 4-1 to Semiahmoo and winning that and the way we battled against Notre Dame and Burlington and even today - that first period was all Pursuit and we really battled back and I thought we had the edge kin the second."
He says a bounce here or there and it might have been a different game.
Blais says there may have been some nerves in the opening period.
"It sure looked like it because we weren't handling the puck well and we didn't seem to have our usual jump," says Blais.
"They were all over us but credit them, they came out hard and forechecked. They're a great skating team.
Steven Fiust was able to get one for the Jr. Rockets with three minutes to go when he grabbed a loose puck and wired it into the top corner but a late penalty snuffed out any comeback attempt.
Nick Kovacik sealed the win with an empty net goal in the final minute.
Ryan McQueen snapped a 2-2 with a deft deflection in the slot with 3:40 to go in regulation time to propel Thunder Bay back to the final.
Cashen Tighe sealed the win with an empty net goal in the dying second.
Ryan Walsh scored a pair for the winners, both coming in the opening period.
The Kings advanced to the final thanks in large part to a pair of five minute penalty kills.
Brad Kaarela was handed a major for a hit to the head in the second period and Nicholas Nigro was assessed a five minute checking from behind penalty at the end of the second.
Thunder Bay not only killed both but were the more dangerous team on both occasions.
This is POE's first appearance in the final while Thunder Bay is back in the final for the first time since winning it all in 2009.
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