By Ken Alexander
You couldn’t ask for a better way to finish your Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) career.
For 100 Mile House Wrangler and Prince Rupert product Brady Ward, it was a moment every hockey player dreams about – scoring the winning goal to clinch a league championship.
That’s what this local lad did at 3:57 of the third period in Game 5 of the KIJHL League Championship – he pounded a one-timer into the back of the net – in front of a home-town crowd that erupted in jubilation against the Kimberley Dynamiters on March 31. Ward’s goal was the Wranglers’ second in the 2-1 win.
The six-foot-one, 205-pound left winger has been playing for the Wranglers for three seasons, and every year his scoring numbers have gone up. This year he scored 21 points on 11 goals, including two game winners and 10 assists.
However, scoring prowess is not what Brady is known for around the KIJHL. It’s his hard-working, hard-hitting presence on the ice that his teammates admire and he’s well like off the ice, too.
He is a tough guy and willing to play through pain. He has a class 1 ACL tear; he has to wear a brace — “I’ll rest it properly when we’re done playing this year.”
So, Brady, what was it like scoring the league-winning goal?
“I can’t talk about that without talking about how amazing my line mates are. Playing with those guys [Cole Zimmerman and Stephen Egan] has been really great.
“Zimmerman is definitely the big part of our line. He’s the one who gets the most goals. Me and Egan just kind of find him. Our line is muck and grind.”
As for the goal, he says Zimmerman came around the net and had no options so he put it off the boards to Egan who came down the boards, which caused confusion for the Kimberley guys, and he got by them down below the goal line.
“I was just coming on and I saw Egan go around the back of the net, so I delayed a bit and pulled up at the left face-off dot and started creeping in towards the net. Egan drew the D man toward himself and found the lane with a perfect pass and I [one-timed] it towards the net. I put it above the pad and below the glove on the far side.”
Brady says it was his biggest goal.
“I swear I’ll never score another goal that big for the rest of my life.”
Noting he felt the Wranglers had a good chance going into the playoffs, Brady says he was confident going into the series with the Summerland Steam and the Kimberley Dynamiters.
“I’m just really happy to get [the league title] in my last year.”
Noting the Steam and Dynamiters were more of a skilled and fast teams, Brady said the key to success closing the ice surface down on them, so they didn’t have room to free-wheel.
“Getting the conference banner was the biggest confidence boost for our team going into the series against Kimberley.
“We took the body to them and they’re not a team used to getting hit. They weren’t used to that physicality and they didn’t like it.
“I think everyone on this team … it’s like one big family. We’d all do anything for each other on any given day.”