A year in Abbotsford sports

2014 was jam-packed with victories and noble defeats for local teams and athletes.

Abbotsford hockey product Jake Virtanen's selection by the Vancouver Canucks was one of the biggest stories of the sports year.

Abbotsford hockey product Jake Virtanen's selection by the Vancouver Canucks was one of the biggest stories of the sports year.

Abbotsford athletes and teams made their mark at home, abroad, and sometimes both in a 2014 that was jam-packed with victories and noble defeats.

Hometown heroes

A pair of Abbotsford athletes signed contracts in 2014 with major sports clubs just down Highway 1 from their hometown.

In late June, Vancouver Canucks chose Jake Virtanen sixth overall in the NHL entry draft, making the local teen the highest-drafted Abbotsford hockey player ever selected in the draft. A month later, he signed an entry-level contract with the Canucks, news that Virtanen broke himself on his Twitter account. (Abbotsford’s Devon Toews was also drafted, going in the fourth round to the New York Islanders).

After going undrafted in the NFL draft, W.J. Mouat football star Boseko Lokombo – who finished his U.S. college football career with the University of Oregon in the spring – signed with the B.C. Lions in September.

O Canada!

The past year saw multiple Abbotsford athletes wear the red and white to represent their country in 2014.

Some were veterans of international competition, like rugby player Justin Douglas, who played for Canada at major tournaments in Australia and South Africa, and Steve Marshall, who competed at the FIVB World Championships in Poland. Sophie Schmidt and the Canadian women’s national soccer team continued to gear up for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

But there were many others who were new to the national gaze:

Nearly half of Canada’s senior men’s team in the fall’s World Gymnastics Championships in China were composed of Abbotsford Twisters Gymnastics members – veteran Ken Ikeda and newcomers Zachary Clay and Robert Watson;

Field hockey player Amrit Sidhu and rugby player Lauren Kerr won silver with their respective teams at the Youth Olympics;

Bryana Buttar helped the Canadian under-15 girls soccer team to the gold medal at the inaugural CONCACAF U15 Championship in the Cayman Islands;

Chelsea Jenner sparkled in limited playing time the Canadian senior women’s national softball team at the World Cup of Softball IX;

W.J. Mouat grad Tristan Etienne and his under-18 men’s basketball Canadian teammates won silver at the FIBA Americas tournament;

UFV golfer Aaron Pauls was named to Canada’s team for the 2014 World University Championships, as was UFV golf coach Chris Bertram;

Yale Secondary grad Jason Hignell captained his team to upset wins at the 2014 Rugby League Commonwealth Championships in Scotland;

And in December, Jake Virtanen was named to Canada’s World Junior Hockey Team.

Provincial champions

MEI’s senior boys volleyball team claimed the AA provincial title in November, after finishing the season a dominant 31-1, their only loss coming to the top-ranked AAA team.

And in May, the Abbotsford senior girls rugby team claimed the AA provincial championship with a 26-12 win over cross-town rival Robert Bateman Timberwolves.

University medals

The University of the Fraser Valley’s women’s basketball claimed the school’s first basketball Canadian Interuniversity Sport medal for the school. In the fall, the soccer team nearly repeated the accomplishment, but finished fourth in the national tournament.

UFV’s women’s golf team also won silver in the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association, while the men took bronze.

PGA pros

They learned their craft on the greens and fairways of Ledgeview Golf Course, and in 2014 Abbotsford golfers Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor served notice that they’re at the pinnacle of Canadian golf this year through a series of sparkling performances. Hadwin won two Web.com tournaments and finished at the top of the circuit’s money list to earn a PGA Tour card. He finished 10th in just his fourth PGA tournament.

Taylor also earned a card with a strong finish in the Web.com playoffs, then won his fourth PGA tournament, collecting a paycheque of $720,000 in the process. In doing so, he became the first Canadian golfer to win a PGA tournament in five years.

Game over

The Abbotsford Heat’s five year-run in Abbotsford came to an end May 2, when the Grand Rapids Griffins fended off a third-period comeback en route to a 5-3 home-ice victory to win their best-of-five first-round playoff series 3-1.

A little more than two weeks prior, the City of Abbotsford announced that it would pay $5.5 million to terminate the last five years of its 10-year supply fee agreement with the Heat’s NHL parent, the Calgary Flames. The move led to the Heat’s departure from the city.

Keystone runners-up

The host Abbotsford Pilots came up just short on home ice in the Keystone Cup final. The Pilots, seeking their second Western Canadian junior B hockey championship in three seasons, fell 5-1 to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in front of a near-capacity crowd at Abbotsford Recreation Centre.

The Pilots, who received a berth in the tournament as hosts, entered  after a long layoff following defeat in the Pacific Junior Hockey League semifinals. After falling to Beaver Valley in their tournament opener, the Pilots reeled off four straight wins to punch their ticket to the championship game.