A surprising postseason run by Campbell River’s Atom B Tyees fell just short of the ultimate prize Sunday, as the Tyees watched the Saanich Braves hoist the Vancouver Island Division 4 banner following a 7-2 win in their playoff final at the Comox Sports Centre.
One day earlier, the Tyees stunned top-seeded Juan de Fuca, which went unbeaten during regular-season play, 4-3 to earn the finals berth.
“Our message to the kids all year has been ‘shots on goal,’” said Mike McKinnon, the team’s head coach. “The more shots we take the better the chances something good is going to happen. They’ve finally been taking that to heart.”
Campbell River finished in a fifth-place tie in the league standings and needed a 2-1 win over Comox in an elimination game a week earlier just to advance to the four-team semifinals in Comox.
They were pit against Juan de Fuca, which rolled to the top spot on the division by a comfortable seven points. It looked like that dominance would continue when the Grizzlies scored off the opening puck drop and took a 2-0 lead in the second period before the Campbell River comeback began.
After David Stevens launched a high, floating shot from the high slot, Kobe Koizumi won the scrum in front of the Juan de Fuca net for a put-back that made it 2-1 at 6:06. Then, with the Tyees skating shorthanded, Joseph Marks stepped in front of a pass at the Grizzlies’ blue line and fired a shot that tipped off a defender’s stick and into the net to tie it at 12:38.
The key stretch of the game may have been the one when no goals were scored. Through the first half of the third period, Juan de Fuca kept up a vigorous forecheck and peppered Campbell River goalie Macklin Johnson with shots.
“Definitely, our goalie stood on his head early in the third,” said McKinnon. “He faced a lot of shots there and kept us in it until the team started turning it around.”
Brandon Myles gave the Tyees their first lead of the game at 10:39 of the third period, converting a rebound of Owen Taylor’s shot.
Then, with 4:09 to play, Campbell River took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play when Nick LaPierre lifted home a shot to make it 4-2.
The Grizzlies got one goal back with 2:06 to go, and enjoyed a power play the rest of the game, skating 6-on-3 over much of the final minute after pulling their goalie.
But the Tyees were able to clear the puck from their zone and nearly got an empty-net score.
“Our penalty killing (Saturday) was very good,” said McKinnon. “They not only got the puck out of our end, but they kept it out. It was a strong team effort.”
Saanich 7, Tyees 2
As hot as the Tyees were in the playoffs, they may have run into an even hotter club in Saanich, which dispatched second-ranked Nanaimo 9-1 in Saturday’s semis. Campbell River also had no answer for the Braves’ Colby Dreibergan, who scored five straight goals in the win.
The No. 3-seeded Braves took a 4-0 lead into the mid-game ice cleaning and the Tyees could get no traction offensively until Thomas Nelson grabbed the rebound of Tyson Olsen’s shot from the wing and put it in at 3:10 of the third to make it 4-1. Liam MacKinnon gave the Tyees a second score off a Taylor assist with 9:12 to play.