RINK Hockey Academy Winnipeg has won their first CSSHL Western Championship in the male division, beating Okanagan Hockey Academy 5-1 in the CSSHL U16 Prep Western Championship Final. The victory is a significant achievement for the team, requiring hard work, dedication, and teamwork to accomplish. Though personal and professional development remains a top priority for the student-athletes, winning the division championship in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) is a testament to the character, grit, skill, and abilities of the players, coaches, and support staff.
The tournament takes place in Penticton, BC over a two-week period in March. The intensity of the competition is unparalleled, with five games in five days, every aspect of the team's preparation and recovery needs to be meticulously planned and executed to achieve success. Head Coach Jeff Borse highlighted the challenging nature of the tournament, requiring focus and determination from the team.
"It was just amazing being there, seeing stuff you don't normally see. The mountains and nice views, no snow. It was quite a shock." said forward Kayden Turner. "Overall, it was a great experience to be out there with the boys this year."
The U16 Prep team had finished the regular season on top of their division with a dominant 32-2-1 record, adding pressure to their playoff performance. The team's resilience and ability to thrive in high-pressure situations are a testament to their dedication and hard work throughout the season. To go all the way, the U16 Prep team was faced with the challenge of 5 games in 5 days. Unlike anything the team would have faced during the regular season. Naturally, this brought a long the pressure of closing it out come playoff time. Eventual championship hat-trick scorer, Carson Legault, brought up their team mantra from HC, Jeff Borse. "Pressure is a Privilege." What Carson is highlighting here is that the entire team having the pressure to win and succeed is a privilege bestowed upon them due to their regular season success and to not take it for granted going into playofffs.
"Despite feeling nervous going into the playoffs, our team had confidence in our ability to pull together and come out on top," said Carson Legault.
When asked about the need to stay focused for such a short period of time, AC Jon Carlson had the following to say. "The grind of it all is very intense. With this group here, we had five games in five days, and everything from your preparation to your cooldowns, everything has to be on point, and you really have to dial it in for one full week."
Heading into the final game against OHA, RHA fell behind 1-0 almost immediately on a tough defensive zone error. "That one just hit you right in the heart." said forward Kayden Turner. "My stomach just dropped because now we would have to dig ourselves out right from the beginning of the game."
Championship game hero Carson Legault was able to rally the troops scoring 2 goals in the span of just 11 seconds to end the first period up 2-1. "After falling behind early, we were speechless. Thankfully we were able to come together and get 2 before the end of the period," says Carson.
From there, the team began to roll, scoring 3 unanswered goals. They continued to assert their dominance over OHA for the remaineder of the second periond. With a scoreless third and the clock winding down, it set in that victory was imminent, and helmets and gloves began to fly sealing the win for RHA.
"The joy and elation on the players' face when they won the championship was truly unforgettable and something I will cherish for a long time," said HC Jeff Borse, describing the championship winning moment of the tournament.
"Seeing all the emotion and passion on the guys' faces, and how happy they were, made it very special for me," said AC Jon Carlson. "This is a moment I'll remember for a really long time and I'm sure the guys will too."
"We're incredibly proud of the coaching staff and student-athletes," said RHA Governor Ryan Cyr. "From my perspective, it is the culmination of consistently doing the right things and developing good habits throughout the year that led to their success. Not only is it a testament to the teams on-ice ability but to the character of these young men on the team."
The Road to the Championship
March 15th - OHA Edmonton (1) vs RHA Winnipeg (7) U16 Prep
Kayden Turner had a four-point game with a goal and three assists, Jack Bilous added a goal and two helpers, while Reece Gault added three assists for RHA Winnipeg. Brady Low turned aside 14 of 15 shots he faced to pick up the win, with Nicholas Rowney scoring the lone goal for OHA Edmonton.
March 16th - Pacific Coast Hockey Academy (1) vs RHA Winnipeg (12) U16 Prep
Connor Bear (3G, 2A) and Kayden Turner (2G, 3A) each finished with five points while Lincoln Ponce (1G, 3A) had four of his own as RHA Winnipeg defeated PCHA 12-1. Jed Lake scored the lone PCHA, beating Brant Catellier (11/12) midway through the third period.
March 17th - BWC Academy (2) vs RHA Winnipeg (7) U16 Prep Quarter Final
RHA Winnipeg outshot BWC Academy 51-27 en route to a 7-2 win in the quarter finals. Connor Bear (1G, 2A) and Wyatt Stinton (2G, 1A) led the RHA Winnipeg offence with three points while Brady Low (25/27) made 25 saves in net. Nicholas Drapack and Aidan Mark scored for BWC Academy in the loss.
March 18th - Notre Dame (1) vs RHA Winnipeg (4) U16 Prep Semi-Final
Lincoln Ponce picked up three assists for RINK Hockey Academy Winnipeg, while Ayden Collins, Kaleb Dewar, Wyatt Stinton and Reece Gault all found the back of the net. The lone goal for Notre Dame was scored by Ben Bugeaud, as RHAK netminder Brant Catellier turned aside 24 of 25 shots he faced for the win.
March 19th - Okanagan Hockey Academy (1) vs RHA Winnipeg (5) U16 Prep Western Championships Final
It was an eventful first period for each side in the U16 finals. OHA’s Simon Cecconi (1G) would draw first blood off of an error, but RHA Winnipeg would strike right back. Carson Legault (3G) potted home two goals in 11-seconds to give his squad the lead after one period of play. Into the second frame, RHA Winnipeg continued to display their dominance after an early jolt from OHA. Koy Funk (1G) would deflect home a point shot from Josh McGregor (1A) and Legault would bury a one-timer to seal off his hat-trick performance. Jonah Tonhauser (9/9) would come in relief for Conner Nicolson (31/36) but would later return to the bench after suffering an injury on an awkward play along the side of the net. Nicolson would come back into the game right before surrendering one to Kayden Turner (1G, 1A). With this marker, Turner has set the record for most points produced at the CSSHL U16 Western Championships with 15. (5G, 10A). RHA Winnipeg comfortably drifted through the third with their 4-goal cushion, easing on the gas pedal and cruising to capture the program’s first CSSHL title.