Island players shine at Capital City Challenge tournament

Cleve Dheensaw

With forward Ty Halaburda of Victoria and Matthew Wood of Nanaimo in the ­championship game Wednesday night, but on opposite teams, there was ­guaranteed to be a gold ­medallist from the Island in the Capital City Challenge U-17 hockey.

Halaburda, who plays for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, turned out to be golden with two goals in the final in leading Team Black to a 5-4 overtime victory over Team Red. The six-foot-three Victoria Grizzlies power-forward Wood, who led the B.C. Hockey League in scoring before departing for the tournament, scored a goal for Team Red in the final.

The tournament featured most of the Canadian players who will be selected in the 2023 NHL draft.

Team Black’s top line in the tournament was Victoria’s Halaburda, Zach Benson from Chilliwack, and the WHL’s ­Winnipeg Ice, and Calum Ritchie of the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, the ­latter who notched the overtime winner in the final.

“Our line has been moving the puck well. We have a lot of speed and have been using that to our advantage,” Benson said in a statement.

“Playing with Calum [Ritchie] is great, he is a great guy off the ice and a very skilled player with a lot of hockey IQ on the ice. You add in Ty [Halaburda], who is so fast and physical. He works hard, never takes a shift off and wins puck ­battles, and they are both great ­linemates.”

Of the overtime winner, Ritchie said: “It was a little bit of a blur. I saw the puck bounce off the boards and I had the ­opportunity to get a ­breakaway, so I just skated as hard as I could. Muscle memory from practice took over, and to be honest I do not really remember [scoring], but it was such a great feeling to get the ­game-winner.”

Defenceman Austin Zemlak of the Victoria Royals, among the 20 WHL players selected for the tournament, was injured and unable to play.

Also participating was the Canadian women’s national team. The series was to help prepare the Canadian women for the 2022 Beijing Winter ­Olympics.

Team White defeated the Canadian women’s team 6-1 in the bronze-medal game.