Thursday, March 21, Duncan
In a battle that has been on-going all season, arch rivals North Shore Winter Club Winterhawks and Burnaby Winter Club Bruins faced off yesterday in a winner take all contest to decide the BC Provincial Bantam AAA title, and earn the right to represent the province in the Western Bantam Championships, April 4-7 in Kindersley.
The game was the sixth time the two teams had faced each other this season.
The day before the two teams had played each other in the round robin, and the Bruins had prevailed, winning 4-3.
Although there was no medal yet on the line, the game was hard fought, and the win gave BWC the 2012-13 series lead with a record of 2-1-2.
On March 3, Bruins had tied the Hawks 1-1 to steal the PCAHA Final 4 Playoff banner. The Hawks had opened that tourney with a 3-3 tie against Abbotsford. The Bruins had gone undefeated, so the 1-1 tie gave them one more point than the Hawks in the standings, and the banner.
So over the previous 17 days, it seemed the scales had tipped in favor of the Bruins.
But then Hawks held three trump cards themselves. Way back in October, they’d won the key season opening AAA tournament in Chilliwack.
In January they’d won the prestigious John Reid AAA in St. Albert, besting the top teams in all of Western Canada. The Bruins had not fared well in either tourney.
And in regular season league play the Hawks had taken 3 of 4 points with a 2-0 win and a 1-1 tie on their way to a league best 19-0-1 record.
So the stage was set for a terrific game where everything was riding on the outcome.
Both teams came out flying; the Bruins striking first within the first two minutes and then again towards the middle of the frame to close the first period with a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t last long. Shortly after the puck dropped to open the second period, the Winterhawks struck on a goal by team captain Dante Hannoun. A few minutes later a weird end over end flip shot from Marcus Kwan floated over BWC tender Tyler Shagrue and into the net to even the score at 2-2.
But again the Bruins stormed back, scoring a late goal to take a 3-2 lead into the third.
The third period opened with both teams coming out hard. Then with about five minutes left, Winterhawks Captain Dante Hannoun banged in a rebound to even the score at 3-3.
As the final minutes ticked down it looked like overtime was likely.
But then with just over a minute left, Bruins captain Dante Fabbro was assessed a penalty in the Bruins zone. It proved to be a fatal blow.
A few seconds later, a blistering point shot from Jordy Bellerive found the back of the net off a tip by Quinn Benjafield.
NSWC 4 – BWC 3.
It was a dramatic finish to a season of epic battles between two of the top teams in Western Canada, who between them are likely to place 6 to 8 players in the top rounds of this year’s WHL bantam draft.
The Bruins have won the Westerns for BC two out of the last three years. This year, the Winterhawks are determined to bring it home for BC and make it 3 for 4.
The win was made even sweeter for the Winterhawks by virtue of having having three regulars on the sidelines with injuries for the game. Also notable and inspirational was the gutsy performance of defenceman Clint Coleburn, who had suffered a first degree shoulder separation in the morning game, and then suited up to play one of his best games of the season.
“It was a great final, against a team we’re pretty familiar with,’’ said North Shore coach Jim Dinwoodie after the game.
“We were pretty banged up going into that game. Our guys kind of stepped up and we asked guys to elevate and buy in.’’
After falling behind 2-0 in the first “we had to manufacture a bit of luck,’’ conceded Dinwoodie.“I thought that first goal kind of got us going.’’
“In the third, there’s not going to be a bad shot to take,’’ he said.
The timing was also key to Dinwoodie. Had there still been three minutes or so remaining, it might have been a different story. But Burnaby ran out of time too quickly to attempt a comeback.
“They were stunned,’’ Dinwoodie observed. “I think they felt they had us. They knew our situation with our health and our body count.’’
Through it all, Dinwoodie wasn’t totally surprised his team prevailed.
“The team has shown a ton of character,’’ he said. “We’ve found ways all year. Our strength of character is ultimately the difference. Thankfully, that game ended in regulation. I don’t know what we had left.’’