Aiming to finish the season one rung higher than a year ago, the Kelowna Sparta took another step towards their goal with a pair of senior AA hockey wins on the weekend at the CNC.
Sparta, second-place finishers in the Coy Cup championship tournament in 2017, all but clinched home-ice advantage for the remainder of their 2018 qualifying series by defeating the North Island Capitals 4-1 on Friday and 9-3 on Saturday in their final regular-season games.
With the two wins, Sparta not only confirmed they’ll meet Powell River in one independent league semifinal series Feb. 23 and 24 in Kelowna, but should they do as expected and get by Powell River, would host a two-game final series with either North Island or South Island.
The winner of the independent league title will move on to the Coy Cup provincial tournament championship in Williams Lake March 27-31.
Aaron Buat scored three times and Tylor Branzsen added a pair of goals to lead Sparta to the lopsided win on Saturday. Matt Elia, Steve Koshey, Ty Moses and Kelly Loudoun each scored once for the winners, who led 2-1 after the first period and took a 7-3 lead into the third.
Shane Mainprize stopped 21 of 24 shots to earn the win in goal.
On Friday, Sparta relied more heavily on Mainprize to record the win. After a scoreless first period, the hosts got a powerplay goal from Taylor Jordan and outscored the Capitals 3-1 in the third on goals by Sasha Golin, Marcel Fuchs and Scott Latwat.
The Coy Cup tournament will involve the top four senior AA teams in the province. The winner of the Central Interior Hockey League will earn one berth, while Williams Lake will be the host team. Dawson Creek has already qualified, while the winner of the independent league, including Sparta will be the fourth team.
The provincial tournament begins with a round-robin affair, with the top team earning a bye into the final and the second- and third-place teams meeting to determine the other finalist.
The Coy Cup was donated to BC Hockey by Colonel Coy of the 50th “Gordon Highlanders” Regiment of Victoria. The first Coy Cup was awarded in the 1922 – 1923 season. A Kelowna team has never won it.
Sparta, 7-4 this season, have indicated that should they reach their goal of winning the Coy Cup this year, they would likely register as a senior AAA team next season and compete for the Allan Cup.
The team is composed of ex-pro players and those who have played university, college, major junior, junior A and junior B hockey.
-Lorne White, KelownaNow