It was rivalry day in the Okanagan on March 11, when one of Canada’s largest student-athlete sports tournaments continued in Penticton.
This year’s edition of the prestigious Canadian Sport School Hockey League Championships (CSSHL) entered its sixth day on Saturday and featured a Male U17 matinee showdown between the Penticton-based Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) and Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna.
OHA’s Charlie Grant scored twice Saturday, including the eventual game-winner, to lift his team to a 4-1 victory against the Kelowna-based squad at the Okanagan Hockey Training Centre (OHTC).
Grant was joined by Leonard Biafore and David Hoy in finding the back of the net for OHA.
Kelowna’s U17 prep squad used a late third-period marker from Kelsen Podworny to spoil OHA’s shutout bid.
“Rink Kelowna and OHA Penticton is always a rivalry game, doesn’t matter what division it is,” said Kevin Goodwin, the chief operating officer of the CSSHL.
Saturday marked both teams’ first game of the event.
OHA and Kelowna are two of the 86 total teams in attendance from across B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Idaho.
“It doesn’t where you go in town when the tournament is on, you’re going to see teams around,” said Goodwin. “My favourite part of it is the energy it brings to the city…seeing the busses go everywhere, the atmosphere, the energy, it’s all great.”
The tournament’s venues include the OHTC, South Okanagan Events Centre and Memorial Arena.
Divisions include U15, U15 Prep, U16 Prep, U17 Prep, U18 Prep, and U18 Female Prep, with teams from Kelowna, Delta and Burnaby among the defending champions in select conferences.
Since becoming chief operating officer of the CSSHL, Goodwin says the tournament has grown right before his eyes.
“In 2016, we were at 40 total teams,” he said. “Now, we’re up to 86 and next year, we’ll have 95…we’ll be over 100 for sure soon.”
Goodwin also points to the tournament’s impact on the local economy, dating back to when first came to Penticton seven years ago.
The City of Penticton and CSSHL Championships inked a five-year, $500,000 deal earlier this week to keep the tournament local.
The city will grant the event $100,000, per year, with an additional five-year extension clause after the 2029 edition of the tournament. Local officials say the event will bring an estimated $40 million to the city over the length of the contract.
“Everyone in Penticton loves this event,” Goodwin said. “Our coaches and governors love this event and that’s why we’re for another 10 years, you can’t duplicate this anywhere else.”
Saturday’s action on the ice also included a U15 matchup between OHA and Rink Kelowna at historic Memorial Arena, the old home of the Penticton Vees.
CSSHL alumni include Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cole Sillinger and Stanley Cup-winning defenceman Bowen Byram from the Colorado Avalanche.
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