Coming through the bottom of the bracket, the Air North Jets had a long row to hoe to reach the final. Then they ran out of runway.
The Klondike Dental Molars shut out the Jets 2-0 – avoiding an all-or-nothing Thursday game – to win the Whitehorse Oldtimer Hockey League final on Monday at the Canada Games Centre.
“We didn’t want to come back on Thursday night,” said Molars captain Tim Turner-Davis. “I was going to be missing the game – I didn’t want to tell anybody that I wouldn’t be in town. So I really wanted to win this tonight.
“We did it. It’s a great feeling.”
The Molars went undefeated in three playoff games leading up to the final with an eight-day rest before Monday.
The Jets took the long route, beating Medicine Chest on April 1 and EDI Dynamics on Thursday to reach the final. They needed a win Monday to force a second winner-take-all game Thursday.
“(The Jets) had a lot longer haul, but on the other hand, we didn’t play for eight days,” said Turner-Davis. “We won our semifinal game last Sunday, so we haven’t skated for eight days. We were trying to get a practice together and it was just comical because nobody was responding. I had ice-time booked and we were going to have like five skaters – it just never worked out.”
The Molars scored both their goals in the first period. Mike Jim made a pass out from behind the net to Sean McLeish who went upstairs for the game-winner six minutes in. Mark Caswell picked up an assist on the play.
Molars’ Gord Campbell added the second late in the period, roofing a short wrister from in front, assisted by Michael Knutson.
James Billy notched the shutout in net for the Molars.
“James played remarkable, getting a shutout in the final game here,” said Turner-Davis. “James is amazing because he lives in Carmacks, so in the winter time he’ll do the two-hour drive in … and after a game at 11 o’clock at night he drives home. It’s remarkable for him to get a shutout, and to go undefeated in the playoffs is just fabulous.”
At the other end of the ice, the Jets were missing their pilot between the pipes. Goalie (and Air North president) Joe Sparling missed the final with work commitments.
“Joe played the last two games and we won them to get here, so it’s too bad Joe wasn’t here,” said Jets forward Bernie Adilman. “He was a big part of our year all year and a big part of our team.”
“The secret to our success was we worked hard all year, and we did tonight. We just couldn’t beat James, we couldn’t get a greasy goal to get stuff going,” he added. “You want to win it, but we had a great year and it’s a great bunch of guys.”
If there were any glum facings in the stands, they might have belonged to players from Kilrich.
The Kilrich team was the heavy favourite going into the playoffs. They notched likely the best regular seasons in the league’s history, going into the playoffs with ridiculous 35-1-6 record.
“We’ve done some talking with guys who have been around a long time and that’s probably the best oldtimer season ever, so hats off to them,” said Adilman.
Kilrich was eliminated in a loss to EDI, who were knocked out by the Jets.
The Jets, who arrived in the playoffs at 22-12-8 for second, produced Kilrich’s one regular season loss.
The Molars came third in the regular season with a 21-16-5 record.
“Kilrich had an amazing season – they only lost one game – so we were always duking it out with (the Jets) for second,” said Turner-Davis. “It’s funny how oldtimer works: you pick players at the beginning of the season and you never know how they’re going to do. We had a lot of injuries, a lot of guys away, so sometimes we’d have seven skaters and sometimes we’d have 11. It happens for every team.”
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