Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Royal Bank Cup 2011
At the beginning of the Royal Bank Cup, one of the locals borrowed the title of a children’s book to describe the Wellington entry into the Canadian Championship: “The Little Engine That Could”.
After all was said and done, of course, the Pembroke Lumber Kings hailed as the Canadian Junior “A” Champions. They defeated the Vernon Vipers in a classic defensive duel in the tournament’s final game by a score of 2-0. Both tallies were notched in the final period, one an empty-netter.
The Vipers came into the final as two-time Canadian Champions. They had gone through the tournament undefeated, and had polished off the Dukes in one of the semi-finals. The Lumber Kings, on the other hand, had clawed and scratched their way into the final. In the major upset of the tournament, they defeated the host team, the Camrose Kodiaks, to gain a berth into the final.
The two finalists skated well, and passed the puck well in the first two periods. There were, however, few quality scoring chances. Players covered well for each other. The Vernon left winger, Marcus Basara, swept in on the Kings goalie Francis Dupuis several times, but could not find the net.
Then, at the 13:39 mark of the final period, a face-off took place in the Lumber Kings’ zone. The Vipers won the draw, scooping the puck back to the blue line to Ryan Renz. He momentarily fumbled the puck along the boards. That created the break the Kings required. Jonathan Milley stole the puck, raced untouched to the Vernon goal, and slid the biscuit into the basket under Halcrow’s left leg.
The marker energized the Kings. They checked voraciously, they raced back into their own zone to clear, they poured over the boards on line changes. They were not to be denied. Milley added an empty net goal to seal the deal.
The Lumber Kings had won their first National Championship. They had played ninety-two games, and emerged with the plum. Kings’ Coach Sheldon Keefe carried his baby son Landon around the rink on a victory lap. They accepted their medals graciously. “I was proud of our guys regardless of what happened, regardless of what the outcome was of this game,” he reported after the game.
There were more than a hundred Dukes’ fans at their final game in Camrose. Most had been there the entire week, with a large contingent holed up in Wetaskiwin, almost thirty kilometres from Camrose. The players constantly thanked their fans for the great support.
And so, for the second time, the Dukes have returned home proud to have been one of the top five teams in a league of 137 teams. In this case, the little engine that just came up a little short.
May 10, 2011