The Wheatland Braves U13 AA are the champions of the south after a nail-biting 4-3 win on Sunday (March 10) against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Strathmore Family Centre Arena. 

Head coach Jack Vergouwen said the Braves had a “gutsy performance.” 

“We managed to take a one-goal lead about halfway through the third period and hung on to it till the end,” Vergouwen said. 

The goals were scored by Finn Sewall, Andrew Bourgon, Nathan Snook, and Colton Bischoff, who scored the last goal in the third.  

“I felt very confident in our group in the last stage of the game because they flipped the switch, and it was an all-out performance. They were doing absolutely whatever was necessary to win the game. In the end, they ripped their hearts out for each other and got the job done.” 

It was an intense game for the team, as they knew going into it that the Lethbridge Hurricanes would be a tough match. 

“We fought hard to get here. We had a big comeback win against Medicine Hat in the semi-finals, and we came up against Lethbridge in the finals, who were the undisputed number-one team in the league this year. We knew it was going to take an incredible effort to come out on top, and that's exactly what we got from our players.” 

Lots of pressure was put on the Braves as they dealt with two penalties late in the game, but that didn't stop them from securing the win.

“There was a lot of pressure and adversity, but that wasn't a new concept to our group. We spent a large amount of time this year learning how to manage that.” 

There was overwhelming support from the community during the hometown showdown on Sunday, with roaring energy from the crowd. 

“We were able to feed on the energy and tremendous support from our crowd. There was awesome representation for the group.” 

Now the Braves are getting prepared to head to Red Deer on Friday night (March 15) at 6:30 p.m., to kick off the league championship, a best-of-three series. 

After that, the Braves will be back home at the Family Centre Arena, where they will play Red Deer again on Saturday (March 16) at 6:30 p.m.

And if needed, the team will be back again in Red Deer on Sunday (March 17) at 1:15 p.m.

The outcome of these games will determine if the Braves continue to provincials. 

“Red Deer is a good team. We have lost to them once this year and then beat them once as well, so it’ll be a tough matchup. But we are feeling good going into it.” 

Unfortunately, during the game on Sunday, one of the Brave's defensemen broke his hand in the last 10 minutes of the game, which was a setback, but according to Vergouwen, adversity isn't a new concept for the Braves. 

“This is nothing new to our group; we’ve faced adversity all year, and we’ll face it again. We’re feeling really good and ready for this upcoming weekend.” 

Throughout the season, Vergouwen has seen tremendous growth in the team and credits it all to the group of great and talented kids on the team. 

“The coaches and I couldn't be prouder of the young men and women on our team for what they accomplished. That banner will hang in the rafters, and they can be very proud of that.” 

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