Lazar lights up home ice

Continuing his pursuit of a spot on Team Pacific, 16-year-old Curtis Lazar found himself back on Salmon Arm ice this weekend, reconnecting with his local roots at the Male U17 BC Cup – an event he and the Stars won Sunday.

Roots: Vernon’s Curtis Lazar celebrates his B.C. team’s victory at the 2011 Canada Games. Lazar returned to his Salmon Arm roots May 11 to 15 for the U17 BC Cup.

Roots: Vernon’s Curtis Lazar celebrates his B.C. team’s victory at the 2011 Canada Games. Lazar returned to his Salmon Arm roots May 11 to 15 for the U17 BC Cup.

Continuing his pursuit of a spot on Team Pacific, 16-year-old Curtis Lazar found himself back on Salmon Arm ice this weekend, reconnecting with his local roots at the Male U17 BC Cup – an event he and the Stars won Sunday.

“It’s good to come back,” says Lazar, who lived in Salmon Arm for 10 years before moving to Vernon. “Salmon Arm Minor Hockey has taught me the foundations, the basics that are key to moving forward. Without being with a great association like Salmon Arm I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

The players were split into six teams for the competition, which Lazar and the Stars won in a 6-2 victory over the Flyers. Lazar scored two of the goals.

Opening their first game against the Bruins with a 4-3 loss, the Stars bounced back in their second game with a 3-0 win versus team Wild. In the semifinal against the Sabres, the Stars dominated with a 6-0 victory.

The cup is the second of four stages in securing a spot on Team Pacific – players from B.C. and Alberta – who will play at the World U17 Challenge against Canadian teams West, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic, as well as national teams from the U.S., Slovakia, Russia, Czech Republic and Finland.

This 5’10,” 156- pound forward has already achieved a lot. The second overall pick for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, Lazar was awarded the 2010 Hockey Now/BC Hockey Hall of Fame Minor Hockey Player Achievement Award. And as captain of Team BC at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Lazar led Team BC to win gold, earning MVP.

From May 11 to 15, Lazar was one of 120 hockey players from around B.C. who camped out at the Sunwave Centre where players lived and breathed hockey. No distractions – even cellphones were off limits.

“It feels good,” says Lazar of making it to this stage. “Every step gets you closer to wearing that Pacific jersey. Just looking at it gives me goose bumps because I want to represent B.C.”

Lazar says it was essential for his team to bond as most players are strangers.

“It’s definitely tough, but it’s the way to success. Relationships between player to player are key,” he says, noting the Stars were together 24-7 during the event.

For Lazar, this stage is exciting because it brings together players from across B.C.

On his team alone  were players from Smithers, Vancouver Island and the Kootenays.

“It’s neat because we share all the same goals,” he says, adding that this makes standing out on the ice all the more difficult.

“It’s tough. You just have to go out there and play your game because everyone is here for the same reason.”

Lazar will wait two weeks before he knows whether he’s made the cut of 46 invited to the Regional Cup, where players from B.C. and Alberta will meet in Calgary, Alta. July 24 to 27.

“It’s a long process and it keeps your nerves up,” he says, noting he truly wants to make Team Pacific, but won’t be discouraged if he doesn’t.

“It will be great if I make it, but even if I don’t, I will have taken away everything I have learned and all the feedback. The coaching staff has been great.

“Thanks to the City of Salmon Arm, because wherever I go with my accomplishments, they’ve been a big part of it,” he says, adding he hopes to help out with the Salmon Arm Hockey School this summer.

And it had to be asked. Who is Lazar cheering for in the race for the Stanley Cup?

“Vancouver because I’m a B.C. boy,” he said. “I haven’t jumped off the bandwagon.”