Stars align for Alaska in Pat Quinn Classic final

The Pat Quinn Classic’s mighty prize is heading north to Alaska.

The Alaska North Stars made the most of their chances, capitalizing on a four-on-three powerplay in overtime to edge past the West Vancouver Academy 4-3 to cart off the Pat Quinn Classic bantam elite hockey title on Monday at Burnaby’s Bill Copeland Centre.

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Camden Shasby’s seeing-eye blast from the centre-point went post-and-in at 1:59 of the extra period, 43 seconds after West Van's Fraser Minten was tagged with a tripping penalty.

In a game where Alaska never trailed, but saw West Van sniper Connor Bedard and Co. answer each time, a narrow escape was exactly what Stars coach Matt Shasby hoped for.

When you continually have those one-goal leads you’re hoping that one is going to be enough, but with a player like Connor Bedard playing against (you) one is never enough,” said Shasby. “I was kind of thinking going into it we’d head to overtime and luckily we got a powerplay and capitalized on it.”

Prior to that, West Van netminder Ronin Geraghty had turned back a scoring opportunity but was unable to track the puck from the high slot with a screen in play.

“We kept it simple and took that shot from the point-middle with a good screen in front. It went post and in – he couldn’t have put it any better,” said the Stars coach.

Late goals gave the well-travelled Americans an edge twice during the game. Carsen Lantto put Alaska ahead 2-1 with seven seconds left in the middle frame, firing over Geraghty into the top corner. Then, after Bedard had made it 2-2 with an Elias Pettersson-like blast that clanked in off the crossbar with 5:27 remaining in the third, Cade Littler backhanded in his second of the game with just 2:05 on the clock to make it 3-2 for Alaska. That set up Bedard's dramatic one-timer to force overtime, beating Bryant Marks on a six-on-four man advantage, to make it 3-3.

The North Stars had advanced to the final with a 2-1 win over the B.C. North Zone, while West Van edged Seacoast 4-3 in their semifinal.

Bedard counted all three goals for West Van, including the game-tying extra-man tally with 47 seconds left in regulation. Having a virtual two-man advantage – Alaska’s Colin Kessler was sent off for slashing with 1:09 left, and Geraghty headed to the bench for an extra attacker – gave the local team a lot of room.

“It’s no secret, our guys are looking for Connor (Bedard). When he’s open and he gets that shot he finds the small part of the net like nobody I’ve seen for a while,” remarked West Van coach Jon Calvano. Bedard would be named the tournament’s MVP after the game.

The 13-year-old Bedard, who’s already received lofty plaudits from the likes of the Hockey News, speculating on his being drafted No. 1 in the 2023 NHL draft, enjoyed the same success at the tournament that he’s been experiencing as one of the younger players in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, a prep circuit for Western Canada. He has 44 goals in 18 games to lead that league by a wide margin, despite being nearly a year younger than any other top-20 scorer.

Calvano, who has coached junior A as well as minor at various clubs, including the Burnaby Winter Club, says the young West Van native brings a startling skill set as well as a level-headed approach.

“Connor does a great job handling it all. It comes with the territory as far as being in that spotlight. He’s earned it with the time and actual work he puts in on his own. He has a lot of passion for the game at this level, and is a humble kid. He doesn’t show it to his teammates, he just wants to be one of the guys,” said Calvano.

Having coached the likes of highly ranked prospects as 2018 NHL rookie of the year Mathew Barzal, Burnaby’s own Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gilbert Brule at the same level, Calvano notes that Bedard is unique in that he shows many of the same traits as each of those three.

“He’s a different player, different attributes than a kid like Mathew (Barzal). I think he’s a hybrid of a lot of guys I’ve coached. He has that goal scoring tenacity and will-to-compete of a Gilbert Brule. The skating and edge control of Mathew, and the uncanniness to find time and space that Ryan (Nugent-Hopkins) did when he was a kid. He’s kind of a blend of all three, which are a great blend to have.”

Marks picked up the top goalie award, and was a big reason why his team never trailed in the final. West Van registered the game’s first seven shots and at times hemmed the Americans in their own zone, but were stymied often by Marks.

“Bryant has been with us from first-year squirts. He was our only guy for a lot of years,” recalled coach Shasby. “He’s one of our most competitive kids that I’ve met, and that’s what you want from your goaltender. You want a competitive kid who isn’t going to shy-away from the situation. He’s come up big for us game after game the last six, seven years.”

Earning the top defenceman award was Seacoast Performance’s Shaun McEwen, a 5-foot-9 skilled blueliner from Massachusetts.

The Alaskan coach, who was a fifth round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens, says the commitment of his players and their parents has been tremendous.

“It’s one of those things where parents have to have full buy-in and the kids have to have full-buy in to make sure they’re staying on top of their school. At the end of the day it’s developing character and creating good people,” he said, noting that living in hotels and travelling between tournaments is a fact of life if you want to compete at the elite level.

The four-day tournament, hosted by the Burnaby Minor Hockey Association, featured 47 teams in four divisions, including for the first time a peewee girls hockey division.

New Hampshire-based Seacoast rebounded from its semifinal loss to defeat B.C. North Zone 9-2.

In the peewee elite final, the Semiahmoo Ravens edged the Kelowna Rockets 5-4, led by tourney MVP Tomas Mrsic and tourney scoring leader Jordan Gavin.

The bantam AAA final saw B.C. Central Zone Rockets rallied to defeat the Richmond Jets 5-4 in overtime.

Picking up the bronze medal was West Van’s varsity squad, with a 4-1 win over Arizona U14s. West Van netminder Liam Hallet was presented with the game MVP award.

The inaugural girls peewee final, between the South Island Royals and Ridge Meadows Barracudas, was played after NOW deadline.

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