The KLP Construction Bantam A Tyees travelled to Salmon Arm last weekend with the same intention as all the other teams who participated in the provincials; to become champions and stake claim as the best tier II bantam hockey team in British Columbia.
Scheduled to play only three round robin games, Tyees head coach Vince Devlin and assistants Norm Chapdelaine and Craig Robertson knew full well that the margin for error was slim at best. Campbell River started the provincials with two impressive victories over the Williams Lake Timberwolves and Cranbrook Hornets by scores of 5-3 and 5-2 respectively. In the Tyees’ final round robin game, the Vernon Vipers dominated the Tyees; winning by a score of 4-0. Of interest, the only other time this season the Tyees were shut out by their opponent was when the Seattle Sno Kings beat the Tyees by a score of 1-0 way back on Oct. 11.
Placing second during round robin play meant a semi-final match-up against the undefeated and highly skilled Port Moody Panthers. For the first time in four games, the Tyees were able to open the scoring thanks to a goal by River Fahey at the mid way point of the first period.
Just minutes after, concern resonated throughout the Shaw Centre after Tyee forward Logan Chapdelaine was removed from the rink on a stretcher and taken to the hospital after suffering a heavy hit into the boards. After almost an hour delay, it was evident that the Tyees were inspired to play for their injured teammate. Tyee Defensemen Luka Kellerhals and Bryce Narhi scored in the second stanza to give the Tyees a 3-0 lead, and the team held a 3-1 lead after two.
A second tally by Fahey early in the final frame regained the Tyees three-goal lead. After the Panthers made it 4-2, Davis Frank restored the three-goal cushion on a tremendous individual effort when he split the defense and deked out the goalie.
Port Moody was able to score their third of the game with seven minutes remaining to make it close. Nonetheless, several big saves by goaltender Antoine Minfray in what was arguably the biggest stage of his young career provided the Tyees with a well deserved 5-3 semi-final victory and a birth in the championship game versus the Vernon Vipers.
Entering the gold medal game, Campbell River had more to be concerned with than Vernon’s dominating performance during their final round robin game versus the Tyees. An impressive Vipers resume also included gold medals in all four tournaments the Viper’s participated in this year, including a 4-2 victory over the Tyees in the semi-final of the KIBIHT tournament. Recent history had many outside of the Tyees locker room sensing that Campbell River was a clear underdog with little chance of creating such an upset.
With injured teammate Chapdelaine returned to the team after evaluation and cheering from the stands, Fahey was able to open the scoring for the second straight game nine minutes into the first period. The game remained that way until Noah Fladager scored early in the second period to double the lead.
Vernon looked like they were preparing to mount a comeback when they scored their first goal on Jayce Hudak with just seven minutes remaining in the second. However, a quick top-shelf reply by Fahey just eight seconds later clearly took some of the venom out of the Vipers. With Vernon still in striking distance, the Tyees played a smart and patient game and finally added the ultimate dagger almost a full period later when Brendan Almer and Cody Savey assisted on Fahey’s hat-trick goal to give Campbell River a three-goal lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the contest.
As the clock ticked down, the team who had done nothing but win all year long, looked to be in disbelief as the Tyees controlled the puck and dictated the game. An empty net goal in the final minute by Fahey closed out the scoring on what was a memorable offensive performance in a convincing 5-1 gold medal victory.
Loads of credit must go to the penalty killers of the Tyees, who did an outstanding job throughout. In every game, Campbell River spent more time on the penalty kill than on the power play.
At the conclusion of the provincials, the Tyees were shorthanded 30 minutes longer than they were on the power play. Time spent penalty killing compared to time with the man advantage was nearly a two-to-one ratio. The Tyees’ penalty killing was especially impressive during the third period of the finals when the highly talented Vernon squad had three power play opportunities to get themselves back into the game, only to be thwarted away by Tyee penalty killers.