Atom skater Benton Browne of Port McNeill and a pair of local coaches emerged golden from the 20th annual Challenge Cup Hockey Tournament in Vancouver in late May.
Benton was part of the West Coast Elite hockey team, made up of 10-11-year-old players from North Vancouver Island communities. The team blitzed through its division with a 6-0 record and won the title game 4-3 in overtime over the Safari Icebreakers of Richmond.
The West Coast Elite coaching staff included Browne’s father, Conrad Browne, along with head coach Greg Fox of Port McNeill. The team, sponsored by Strategic and by Schnitzer Steel Pacific, had to rally from behind to tie the championship final in the final two minutes to force the overtime.
“These boys were successful because of their tireless work ethic,” said Fox. “We asked a lot of this team, and they gave everything. I am very proud of them.”
Prior to the playoffs, West Coast Elite was never threatened, outscoring their opponents 30-2 while posting a pair of shutouts. The results included round-robin wins of 9-1 over the Vancouver Jets, 5-1 over the Ravens, 11-0 over the Calgary Riggers and 5-0 over the North Shore Vipers.
That run gave the team the No. 1 seed into the championship bracket.