Devante Stephens of the Valley West Hawks (left) checks an Okanagan Rockets forward during a BC Hockey Major Midget League playoff game last weekend in Kelowna.

Hawks eliminated in Kelowna

Major Midget team loses semifinal series in three games

In a series in which they outscored the opposition over three games, all of which were played from home, the Valley West Hawks season came to an end.

The BC Hockey Major Midget League team lost 2-1 in a best-of-three semi-final series in Kelowna to the Okanagan Rockets over the weekend. The Rockets won the first and third games by 5-4 and 7-6 margins, while the Hawks doubled Okanagan 6-3 Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks outscored Okanagan 16-15 over 180 minutes of hockey, but it was the 15th goal of the weekend by the Rockets that proved to be the difference. A penalty shot was awarded in the third game with 4:34 to play, and Okanagan converted the scoring opportunity to break a 6-6 tie with the series-clinching goal.

After falling behind 4-0 in the first period, the Hawks slowly worked their way back into the game. Surrey forwards Mitch Newsome and Matt Bradley cut the gap in half with goals less than a minute apart just before the first intermission.

Bradley made it 4-3 early in the second frame, but the Rockets replied with two quick tallies to go up 6-3 midway through the game. Newsome with his second of the game and Bradley in the last minute of the second period pulled Valley West to within one at 6-5. Bradley then scored his fourth of the contest with eight minutes left to tie the score.

Davis Koch of White Rock had three assists in the game, with Langley’s Eric Callegari collecting two helpers.

The Rockets jumped out to an early two-goal lead in the first game Friday night, but two goals from Paul Smith and one from Matt Barberis (both from White Rock) in the second period had Valley West in front 3-2 after 40 minutes.

The Rockets then struck for three goals in a span of 97 seconds midway through the third period for a 5-3 lead. Koch got one back of Valley West in the final minute of play.

In Saturday’s second game, it was Valley West racing to the early lead, with Barberis, Surrey’s Trevor Ayre and Bradley lifting the visitors to a 3-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old. The Rockets clawed their way back into the game with a goal late in the first period and another midway through the second.

But Callegari, Newsome and Bradley scored in the third period to put the game out of reach.

The Hawks had five players average better than a point-per-game in the series, led by Bradley’s seven goals and six assists for 13 points.

The other four were Koch (3 goals, seven assists) with 10 points, Newsome (5-4) with nine, Callegari (1-6) with seven and Barberis (2-4) with six.

The Valley West team, which draws 15-17 year-old players from the Semiahmoo, Langley, Surrey and Cloverdale minor hockey associations, had their best-ever season in 2013-14. Only once before had the team reached the semifinal round, losing in straight games to the Cariboo Cougars in 2010-11. In the regular season, their 27-11-2 (won-lost-tied) record set a club record for wins, and matched previous bests with 56 points and a third place finish.

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