It took five games and likely countless cases of high blood pressure, but the Fort St. John Flyers did it – they beat the Powell River Regals 3-2 in Game 5 to win the 100th Savage Cup and advance to the 2013 Allan Cup on April 15.
Coming from behind 2-0 to tie the game and push it to overtime, the Flyers never quit, outshooting the Regals 32-16 with the most important shot coming from Tyler Brough who scored the game winner less than two minutes into overtime.
“Special moment, special game, special series. It feels good,” said Flyers’ head coach Darrel Leahy following the monumental game. “It feels like a long time, it’s been a long week and it was tough on us.”
“Powell River deserves a pile of credit. Most teams would’ve lay down and died and they never did. They kept coming, kept trying, bringing guys in and out of the line up they deserve a lot of credit for making a series out of it.”
Goaltender Troy Hunt got the nod to play on Monday morning, and although he only faced 16 shots on Monday night, Hunt had to make some acrobatic, jaw-dropping saves to shut down the Regals’ potent scoring and keep his team in the game.
“I was pretty excited,” Hunt said. “You never know which way that’s going to go. [Clayton] Pool played really good last night, we won, pivotal game, so you never know. I was pretty pumped when I got the call because you always want to be in the net, so it was pretty exciting to hear that.”
“It was a weird game and it’s been like that against this team all weekend,” he added. “They get 15 or 20 shots a game but they’re all really high-quality chances. We’ll hem them in for five minutes then they come down on an odd-man rush and you have to make some spectacular, so it feels good.
Game 5 on Monday night couldn’t have been a better show for the fans that packed North Peace Arena to the rafters, the biggest crowd the arena has seen since the Flyers hosted the Allan Cup in 2010.
Although the Flyers were down 2-0 after the first period, defenceman Brad Fast’s power play goal from the point halfway through the second got the crowd back in it as Fort St. John upped the pressure on Regals’ goalie Justin Mulholland.
As usual with the five-game series, the Flyers were outplaying and outshooting the Regals, but Mulholland’s goaltending, blocked shots, posts and deflections had the Flyers frustrated, but determined, to maintain the momentum from Sunday’s Game 4 win and put the series to bed.
“We hit three goal posts in the first, they scored two goals, we came in and said we had as many chances as they did,” Leahy said about the first 40 minutes. “We started the second with a power play and bang, we just started building on that. We got strong defensively We just made our mind up to play defensively and they never got another goal.”
Thirty seconds into the third period, Mike Lalonde deflected another shot from Fast past Mulholland to tie the game 2-2, erupting North Peace Arena in deafening cheers from fans. With more huge saves from Hunt, the Flyers pressed the game into overtime.
“[We wanted to] give them no scoring chances and we had all kinds of them and the boys felt it and we just built on it,” Leahy said. “We came out in overtime, much the same as the other overtime game dominating them, but this time they didn’t get it down in our end.”
“We talked about it going into overtime that we can’t let this slide. It’s our game, our turn, our time.”
And unlike in Game 3’s overtime, the Flyers were the ones to score and by winning Game 5, raise the Savage Cup trophy above their heads in front of over 1,500 fans and start planning their trip to Red Deer for the 2013 Allan Cup.
“It’s unreal,” Hunt said. “We’ve [made it to the Allan Cup] once before, but that was here and we got that one given to us. We didn’t earn it the way we wanted to. This feels excellent. It feels great to put the sweat and blood in and earn your keep and get there.”
Leahy seemed the happiest for Game 5’s goalie of the night.
“I’m feeling really good, especially for Troy,” he said. “We went to the McKenzie Cup two years ago and Pool played all five games, standing on his head and [Hunt] didn’t get a shot. It was his time. I told him that this morning and he made the most of it. Real proud of him.”
The 2013 Allan Cup schedule was updated immediately following the Flyers’ win, and Fort St. John is set to play the Stony Plain Eagles on April 15. For now, however, Leahy said he’s going to give his team the week off.
He figures they’ve earned it.