Saturday, May 07, 2011


Dukes Dumped in RBC Semi Final

If you felt the earth shake a little on Saturday night, it was because the Pembroke Lumber Kings upset the home town favourites---the Cambrose Kodiacs in the late semi-final game of the Royal Bank Cup. It was definitely not expected.

The Kodiacs had defeated the Kings in the preliminary round, and they were prepared to play the final on Sunday afternoon. The whole town expected nothing less. Camrose had been a gracious host to Wellington, Vernon, Portage, and Pembroke. Particpants had been through the formalities of anthems, awards, and banquets. Incidentally, the beef was delicious.

The Kings are now settling in for the night, preparing for their game tomorrow against the powerful Vernon Vipers. The Kings had defeated the Kodiaks 4-2, with their fourth marker an empty net tally.

The Vipers advanced to the final by defeating the Wellington Dukes in the other semi-final 4-1, also with an empty net goal. For most of the crowd at the Edgeworth Centre, the result was a foregone conclusion. The Dukes, however, were not prepared to throw in the towel at any point during the game.

Time after time in the first period, Jordan Ruby demonstrated why he is considered to be a premier goalie in this country. Darren Nowick raced in off the left wing, and was thwarted by Ruby. Kyle Murphy snuck in behind the Dukes’ defense, and was rejected by a brilliant glove save.

With only eight seconds left in the period, working on a power play, Bryce Kakoske teed the puck up at the blue line. The Vipers crowded the Dukes’ crease. Ruby did not see the puck as it creased the twine. The Dukes were outshot 17-7, and were outplayed.

Less than four minutes into the second period, Kakoske grabbed the puck on the boards, drifted into the slot, and ribbed another shot past Ruby that he did not see. The Dukes regained some momentum during a power play, and Steve Evans came close with a shot that was tipped over the net.
Kirby Halcrow made two fine saves in the Kodiak net when the Dukes had the man advantage. Credit must be given to the Kodiak defense: the Dukes were not able to get off second and third shots off rebounds, which were cleared. Several Dukes’ shots were tipped or blocked.

Halcrow had played well at the tournament. His goals against average was a sparkling 2.25, his save percentage was .910, and he led his team to four straight wins. The native of Grouard on Lesser Slave Lake had almost given up on hockey earlier in the season. “It was a dream come true,” he told me, when referring the trade that was made to land him in Vernon. He left his Kapow’eno First Nation home to attend school and play hockey in Grand Prairie, Alberta. He now intends to continue his hockey adventure.

Dukes’ Coach Abrams shuffled lines in the third period to attempt to achieve some results. At the midway point in the third period, Dukes’ blueliner Elliott Richardson lofted a shot from centre ice in the general direction of the Viper net. Halcrow crouched to play the puck. As is sometimes the case, it skidded to his left and entered the net.

Wellington’s joy was short-lived. Patrick McGillis gobbled up a rebound just out of Jordan Ruby’s reach, and ripped it into the net. With less than a minute remaining, David Robinson drifted a shot into the Dukes’ empty net to seal the deal.

Ruby was rewarded for his outstanding performance by being selected as the Dukes’ “Player of the Game”. Kakoske won the award for the Vipers.

The Vipers now face the Lumber Kings in the RBC final. On paper, it appears to be a mismatch; however, it is a one game, winner-take-all championship. Anything can happen.

Photo: Kirby Halcrow and Jordan Ruby after the game.

James Hurst May 8, 2011

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