The Panago Midget Tyees entered the Vancouver Island Midget finals having won the North Island, facing the Saanich Braves in a three game series.
With home ice advantage, Campbell River faced the Braves at Rod Brind’Amour Arena in a thrilling wide-open display of offensive skill before a packed crowd.
The series primarily featured the Tyees’ cohort of third year players, who gutted out the three game series with little rest, and in some cases significant pain from injuries.
With many of the rookies and sophomores on leashes so short the coaches could wear them as Pandora charms throughout the year, it was no surprise that the Tyee bench was short for the finals; and it was no surprise when they wore down.
In the final game of the series, at the Gardens on Sunday, the Campbell River crowd was excited but nervous.
For the third years, minor hockey could be ending forever, an almost unthinkable reality. The goal through the year was always to qualify for provincials, and only one game separated them from a dream finish. But it was the Braves that seemed to show up with energy, scoring the first two goals on starter Nic Kirchner and widely out-shooting the Tyees early. Through the second period and into the third the Tyees were gifted with opportunities to even the score and even pull ahead, with a five-minute advantage and a series of consecutive power plays. There was effort, and there was heart, but there did not seem to be a way for the Tyees’ short bench to match the deep, well developed and prepared Braves. Grady McInnes got one back for the Tyees, Jake McKenzie was fantastic, but in the end the Braves were too much, winning 4-1.
The players never let themselves down, but were heartbroken on Sunday, bringing an end to the season. Going into game three, the two teams were deadlocked with one win a piece.
The Tyees took game one at Strathcona Gardens by a score of 6-5, thanks in large part to Kirchner who stole the game for Campbell River with a remarkable performance. The Braves had many quality scoring chances that, despite Kirchner’s heroics, the Braves likely left the Gardens with confidence. The alarming trend of penalty killing problems and a weak power play continued for Campbell River, however, which proved the team’s ultimate downfall.
Game two in Saanich was another close affair, with the Tyees falling short by a score of 6-5.
The Braves dominated play, forcing frequent turn-overs at the Tyee blue-line, exposing the defence time and again. Never seeming to adapt, the Tyees trailed 2-0 after the first. The Tyees fought back to tie the game 2-2, but fell apart due to undisciplined penalties and poor penalty killing. In a very short span the Braves took a 5-2 lead and the Tyees never recovered. With the series over, the team wishes its graduates all the best in the future, of health and success and Tyee spirit.