The Mission Blazers floor hockey team emerged golden from the 2023 Special Olympics BC Winter Games in Kamloops last weekend (Feb. 2-4).
Mission’s team featured 13 players in a tournament that lasted two days. The team was placed in the Green Division with Kamloops, Delta, Kelowna and Richmond.
“We had some really early mornings and that’s something the team wasn’t usually used to doing — playing hockey before they’ve had breakfast,” coach Brendan Turner said. “We had a little bit of a sluggish start.”
Mission went undefeated, defeating Kelowna 5-2, Delta 7-5, Kamloops 6-2 and Richmond 4-3. Turner touted the strong goaltending from Mitchell Howell and Justin King as reasons for their success.
The tournament used a round-robin format but Mission’s last game still doubled as a championship, with the winner claiming the title.
“We had some really close games and the team was able to figure it out and win down the stretch,” Turner said. “They were hard fought battles and it was it was cool to see.”
Mission knocked off Richmond 4-3 to secure a gold medal. Trailing 2-1, Bryce Schafelberger scored twice to give Mission a 3-2 lead in the final game.
“It was pretty awesome because he actually went down with a pretty gross-looking injury a few shifts earlier and was able to battle back and show his compete-level and drive to help his teammates win.”
The Blazers’ gold medalists were Schafelberger, King, Howell, Matthew Burns, Doug Martin, Liam Barry, Tony Carter, Russel Reist, Paul Potma, Dan Catarig, Amanda Peebles, Thuc Nguyen, Thien Lam and Josh Potma.
Turner has only been coaching with Mission Special Olympics for a year, but he says it’s a rewarding experience.
“I would strongly recommend that anybody with free time get involved in Special Olympics,” he said. “It’s obviously a huge boost to the program for all the athletes and you get back tenfold from what you put into it.”
A committee will decide who competes at the Special Olympics floor hockey nationals in Calgary in 2024, but Turner says there’s a high probability that the Blazers will be chosen.