The No. 1 Auto Body Bantam ‘A’ Tyees will play for the Vancouver Island Tier 2 title after knocking off the defending Island and Provincial Champions in Victoria over the weekend.
The Tyees defeated the Juan de Fuca Grizzlies 6-4 Sunday afternoon in a sudden death semi-final game played at Bear Mountain Arena. It was the second game in a row the Black and Orange staved off playoff elimination.
Campbell River got off to an impressive start, building a 4-1 lead by the end of the first period. But the Grizzlies fought back, outscoring the locals 2-1 in the middle frame and swinging the momentum in their favour. That made for some tense moments during a tightly played third period.
“We needed a game like that,” said Tyees head coach Peter Martin, “It was a real test for our players – we had to play disciplined, focused hockey the entire sixty minutes. This was a ‘win-or-go-home’ game and the guys made sure they were well prepared. We got off to a fast start but they (Juan de Fuca) weren’t just going give up. It was a good, solid effort by both teams.”
Tyee defenceman Rio Massee opened the scoring, ripping home a point shot on his first shift. Josh Coblenz made it 2-0 a few minutes later, burying a rebound after a blast by Nick Klein-Beekman. The Grizzlies cut the lead in half midway through the period, but Devyn Grant got that one back, scoring on a rocket of a one-timer from the right point. Coblenz then notched his second of the period, a power-play marker, that made it 4-1 and chased Juan de Fuca’s starting goaltender.
Tyson Goebel increased the lead to 5-1 early in the second, converting a fine set-up by Travis Goodwin. But just when the Tyees appeared to be in complete control the Grizzlies got rolling, scoring twice before the second period ended and forcing Campbell River netminder Nick Kirchner to make several excellent saves.
However, Kirchner and the Tyees closed the door in the third period, snuffing out Juan de Fuca’s limited opportunities and killing off a crucial power play late in the game. Captain Gavin Rauser scored into an empty net to seal the victory. The Grizzlies final goal came in the dying seconds.
Although pleased with the effort of his entire team, Martin singled out a pair of defencemen for special praise.
“I really liked the defensive pair of Rio Massee and Devyn Grant today,” he said, “Rio is a really smart player, he’s always talking and always looking for the open man. Devyn plays with a lot of energy. He’s a great skater, can really shoot the puck, and has a lot of heart. They made a really solid pair today.”
The Tyees now face the Port Alberni Bulldogs for the Island Championship, a team they lost to in preliminary playoff action earlier this month.
“That should be the only motivation we need,” Martin said, “Port Alberni is not in the final by accident – they have great goaltending, play a patient game, and take advantage of their opportunities. We just need to play the way we are capable of playing, and use the fact they have beaten us to say ‘we are better than that’…..and then show it. Losing stings but it’s a great motivator.”
The final schedule was not released at press time but the best of three series is expected to begin this weekend. The winner advances to the Tier 2 Provincials scheduled for next month in Rossland/Trail.