Bantam tourney a Christmas break tradition

The Burnaby Minor Hockey Association bantam tournament is as established a Christmas break tradition as any other in the city.

This year’s version will be the 50th annual running from Dec. 27 to 31 at the Bill Copeland, Burnaby Lake and Kengsington arenas. It will, however, have a little twist to it. Last week organizers discovered two teams from Arizona were coming instead of one. That meant some last-minute juggling had to be done to make it a 17-team field instead of the usual 16.

The sun belt teams, the Arizona Firebirds and Arizona Bobcats, will be joined by one from the extreme weather snow belt of the United States, the Alaska Junior Aces.

The Firebirds were placed in the Marino Division with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, the Ridge Meadow Rustlers and the Seafair Islanders from Richmond while the Aces will be in the Smith Division with the Burnaby Bulldogs, Nanaimo Clippers and Surrey Thunder.

The Bulldogs will take on Alaska at Copeland Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 11:30 a.m., and Nanaimo at Kensington Arena at 8:30 p.m., before finishing with Surrey on Dec. 28, 10:45 a.m., back at Copeland.

The Marino and Smith divisions make up the Colbourne Conference while the Collingwood Conference will feature the Wong and Boyd Divisions. The Wong will have the Kamloops Blazers, Langley Eagles, Okanagan Hockey Academy and Vancouver Thunderbirds. The Bobcats have been placed in the Boyd Division with the Coquitlam Chiefs, Prince George Cougars, Richmond Blues and South Delta Storm. The team finishing last in the Boyd will be eliminated from any further play.

The first-round of the playoffs will go Dec. 29 with the quarter-finals and semifinals on Dec. 30. New Year’s Eve will be the championship games with the third-place battle set for 9 a.m. and the final at noon.

• There will also be a tournament within a tournament, as the SFU men’s hockey team will hold the 2012 Great Northwest Showcase at Copeland.

On Dec. 28, the UBC Thunderbirds will take on Arizona State University Sun Devils at 4 p.m., while the SFU Clan will tangle with Oklahoma University Sooners at 7:15. The next day it will be UBC versus Oklahoma at 4 p.m., followed by SFU and ASU at 7:15 p.m.

The Clan are the three-time B.C. International Hockey League champions.

The Sun Devils are first in the American Collegiate Hockey Association NCAA Division I rankings while the Sooners are ranked sixth. UBC is currently fourth in the Canada West standings.

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