By Dave Leaderhouse
Team West was like a runaway train at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge this week in Truro, N.S.; once they gained steam and some traction there was nothing that was going to stop them.
Team West, which had a trio of Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League representatives including head coach Mike Reagan from the Flin Flon Bombers, defenceman Levi Kleiboer from the Battlefords North Stars and Bomber forward Chrystopher Collin, began the week with a pair of losses in the preliminary round-robin, but in the playoffs they were perfect and capped off the week with a convincing 5-1 decision over the United States in the gold-medal game on Saturday.
Zach Rose, a Paradise, N.L., product who plays with Victoria in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, was the star of the game turning aside 35 of 36 shots he faced. Team West managed just 19 shots on the U.S. goal and when Corey Andonovski of Chilliwack scored to make the score 3-0 mid-way through the second period, starting netminder Jake Kucharski was replaced in favour of Ryan Bischel.
Kleiboer got his first point of the tournament when he set up the game’s first goal, a shorthanded effort by Brendan Budy of Langley, B.C. nine minutes into the opening period.
Team West increased that advantage to 2-0 just over three minutes later on a marker from Angus Crookshank of Langley setting the stage for Andonovski’s tally and the subsequent goaltending change in the U.S. goal.
The States appeared to respond to the move as Jack Drury notched a power-play marker two minutes later, but goals by Ross Armour of Trail. B.C., and Dylan Holloway of Okotoks. Alta., 32 seconds apart early in the third period sealed the victory for Team West.
This was Reagan’s third year working with the Team West squad, but his first as the head coach. Team West last won the gold medal in 2015 when the event was held in Cobourg and Whitby, Ont. Team West was fifth last year in Bonnyville, Alta.