The Fort St. John Flyers won their second straight Coy Cup, leaving the Whitehorse Huskies in their wake, over the weekend.
The Flyers ousted the Huskies in the semifinal Friday before downing the hosting Terrace River Kings in the final on Saturday at the B.C. AA senior men’s championship.
“That may have been the toughest loss of my career, especially with the great group of guys we have in that room,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton, just after Friday’s semifinal.
“After the game I let them know, ‘You guys keep your head up high. We started this organization from nothing and here we are being a team that no other team in this tournament took lightly.’
“Any time teams had to face the Huskies, they had to get fired up. It was some of the most physical play for a week straight. That room is filled with guys banged up with bags of ice everywhere.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the players, the coaches or the organization.”
The Huskies were sent packing with a 7-3 loss to the Flyers on Friday. Things looked bright for Whitehorse early on as forward Kane Dawe scored just 33 seconds into the game – on the team’s first shot on net – assisted by captain Evan Campbell. The Flyers answered back with two first-period goals for a 2-1 lead.
Huskies forward Kevin Petovello tied it 2-2 on a power play goal just two minutes into the second before the Flyers took the lead a final time with a goal from Brody Busche on a screened shot Whitehorse goalie J.J. Gainsforth had little chance of stopping.
Fort St. John went up 5-2 early in the third before Huskies centre Adam Henderson put in his team’s final goal of the season.
“I don’t think they outplayed us by any means; it wasn’t a 7-3 game by the way it was played,” said Campbell. “I thought we played well. Systematically we stuck to our game plan, they were just opportunistic with their chances and their goalie (Troy Hunt) played really well all the way through the game.”
The Flyers went on to defeat the Terrace River Kings 3-2 in the final. It was the second Coy Cup in a row in which the Flyers beat the River Kings in the final and the third in a row Terrace was runner-up.
Fort St. John spelt the end of the Huskies’ season last year as well, beating Whitehorse in a qualifier playoff for the Coy Cup. But the Huskies did exact some revenge, even if it was inconsequential. They downed the Flyers 6-5 on Thursday in the final round robin game, scoring two goals in the last six minutes to squeak out the win.
“That was probably one of the grittiest performances I’ve ever seen,” said Tuton.
“As cliché as it is, this was a group effort. There was nobody too high or anybody too low,” he added of the tournament as a whole.
The team effort could be seen on the scoresheet for every Huskies game in Terrace. In the win over the Flyers, for example, every Huskies goal came from a different skater. Rob Warmer, Petovello, Henderson, Gibson Pearson, Rob Stuckey, and Derek Klassen each found the back of the Flyers’ net with Klassen notching the game-winner. Dawe had four assists in the game.
“Everybody played exceptionally hard and I’m proud of all the boys for that,” said Campbell. “It’s just that hockey is a funny game. We had our chances … we just couldn’t quite put them away, capitalize on them. Tonight they (the Flyers) were opportunistic, so hats off to them, they played a hell of a game.”
The Huskies opened the Coy Cup with a 6-5 win over the Smithers Steelheads on March 22. They then fell 6-3 to the Terrace River Kings last Wednesday in their second of three round robin games.
The Whitehorse Huskies, who just capped their second season since resurrected as a AA club, are finishing the season with an 8-5 record, going 4-2 in the regular season, 2-1 over the Powell River Regals for entry to the Coy Cup, and 2-2 in Terrace.
“The support we’ve gotten and the sponsors we’ve gotten – they’re playing the games at the Ridge (Pub) – it’s incredible how far we’ve come in the last two years,” said Campbell. “The coaching staff has done a great job, our trainer, everybody who has been involved in our team have been incredible. It’s been a fun thing to be a part of.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but we’re holding our heads high. We had a great season and we’re going to be back, that’s for sure.”
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