The bantam boys and peewee girls skate into the spotlight as the Hockey Brandon Tournament of Champions concludes this week.
The second week of games begins tonight with a single matchup in the Bantam AAA Division as the Yellowhead Chiefs take on the Parkland Rangers at the Optimist Arena at 7:30. The Bantam AA and A groups get underway tomorrow, along with the Female Peewee AA category.
"I think our guys really look forward to the Tournament of Champions," Bantam AAA Wheat Kings head coach Dennis McNish said. "Every one of them for the most part grew up playing in it from the time they were 10 years old, so it’s something that they look forward to every year, and it’s really nice to have all the teams here in our town … So it should be a good weekend for us."
With six of the eight teams in this week’s Bantam AAA competition playing in the Winnipeg league, there will be a good cross-section of promising bantam talent like Connor Gutenberg and Sam Huston of the Wheat Kings and Cody Thompson of the Southwest Cougars to draw the interest of junior scouts.
The lineup of teams includes all of the top 10 scorers in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA West Division, including Connor Dewar of the Parkland Rangers. While the elite Winnipeg teams aren’t here, two of the East Division’s leading scorers — Leif Mattson and Wyatt Bear of the Interlake Lightning — will compete in the tournament.
The category will also present a good preview of next month’s provincial Rural Bantam AAA championship, with seven of this week’s teams to compete for the Manitoba title, March 14-16 in Portage la Prairie.
"Some (teams) are stronger than others, but everybody’s capable of beating the other team, so that’s the kind of parity that makes for a good tournament," McNish said.
Along with the local teams in the Bantam AAA category, Westman will be represented by a Brandon squad in the Bantam AA event, plus teams from Brandon, Virden and Killarney in the Bantam A class. The Female Peewee AA competition will include teams from Brandon and Birtle.
The A-side finals in all four divisions will be played on Sunday at Westman Place, with the first game set for 8 a.m.