FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Flyers captured their first NHPL title in nearly 10 years on Tuesday night.
In what would be the craziest game in the series, the Flyers opened the scoring not even four minutes into the first period as Daylen Pearson found twine off a feed from Jeff Shipton and Adam Horst. Horst made it 2-0 at 7:40 with a rebound goal off a shot from Cleaver and Reid Campbell. The visitors wouldn’t go away quietly and scored two quick goals to tie the game. The tie was short lived as Horst buried his second of the period from in tight on the powerplay with 3:18 to play, assisted by Shipton and Campbell.
In the second, Robbie Sidhu jumped out of the penalty box and picked up a loose puck, scoring unassisted on a breakaway just 20 seconds in. The Pirates got one backon the powerplay just over two minutes later, but Horst got a hat-trick to restore the Flyers’ two goal lead on the man advantage a short time later, assisted by Brady Busche. With 5:59 remaining in the frame, Brandon Millin pushed the Flyers’ lead to three goals with another powerplay tally, assisted by Daylen Pearson and Jake Ebner. Another Falher goal meant the Flyers still led 6-4 after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Pirates weren’t going away without a fight, scoring just over six and a half minutes in to move within one. A minute and a half later, Falher’s Craig Anderson scored his second of the night to tie things up at 6 apiece. With 9:14 left in the third stanza, Rick Cleaver put the Flyers back in the lead, assisted by Shipton and Horst. The Pirates weren’t able to get another past goaltender Travis McLean, despite outshooting Fort St. John 19-12. A mad scramble in front of Fort St. John’s net saw the Pirates appear to score, but the officials ruled “no goal.” The final score of 7-6 gave the Flyers their first NPHL championship since the 2008-09 season. Horst scored his second hat-trick of the series, while McLean was named MVP.
“It was such a bizarre game, I don’t know what to say,” said head coach Andrew Leriger. “We haven’t had four 5-on-3’s all year, let alone in one game. Travis was the reason we got to the finals. The first round, yeah guys played well but without him it felt like we were heavily outshot every game, and he was the one that allowed us to win. The tradition of the Flyers comes back. For me personally, I never got to win it as a player, so it’s satisfying to win as a coach. I’m happy for the boys.”
Adam Horst, who led the Flyers with three goals in the game, said last night’s match had a bit of everything. “It was an ugly game as far as penalties, stuff went both ways. I didn’t think it was a nice way to play a final game, but we ended up on the better side of things, so we’ll take it.”