The Aldergrove Kodiaksâ€™ memorable post-season run ended Sunday afternoon in Nelson.
The Kodiaks lost 5-2 to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the gold medal game of the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
The loss to the Fruitvale squad put an end to the season for the Kodiaks, who captured the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoff title before battling to the final of the B.C. junior B championship tournament.
Despite the loss, Kodiaks associate coach and general manager Rick Harkins was extremely proud of his players, who put together the most successful season in the franchiseâ€™s six-year history.
â€œThere are 57 other junior B teams in the province who would have loved to have been in our shoes, and we were one game away [from winning the championship],â€ Harkins said. â€œThe guys just bought into our system; they gelled as a unit and battled through injuries and adversity. They just stuck with it. There were 15 seconds left in the final and they were still going. We went to war together. I canâ€™t be more proud of the effort they put forth.â€
The Kodiaks opened the tournament Thursday with a 4-1 loss to the Nitehawks before winning their next two contests, 4-1 over the Victoria Cougars Friday and 2-1 over the host Nelson Leafs Saturday to advance to the championship game.
In their final game of the season, the Kodiaks were outscored 4-1 in the third period by Nitehawks, who, in winning the provincial title, have punched their ticket to the Keystone Cup Western Canadian championship tourney being held April 17-20 in Abbotsford.
The finalists were tied 1-1 going into the final frame.
After a scoreless first period, the Kodiaks and Nitehawks traded goals in the middle stanza.
Aldergrove’s Kenny Prato tied the game at a goal apiece when he found the net with 12:49 to go in the second period.
After Adam Callegari gave the Kodiaks a 2-1 lead with a power play goal early in the third period, it was all Nitehawks, who tallied the final four goals of the game.
With the teams tied 2-2, Dallas Calvin scored goals 2:03 apart to put Beaver Valley ahead by a pair. The Nitehawks capped the gameâ€™s scoring with an empty net marker with eight seconds to go in the contest.
Kodiaks 2, Nelson Leafs 1
Powered by a fantastic goaltending performance from Jordan Liem, the Kodiaks edged the host Leafs Saturday to advance to the championship contest.
Despite being decidedly outshot early on, the Kodiaks edged a hungry Leafs squad that was looking for two points to advance to the final.
The Kodiaks only needed a tie to qualify for the title game.
â€œHe was phenomenal,â€ Harkins said of Liem, who stopped 26 of 27 shots fired his way. â€œHe was, in our opinion, the best goalie of the tournament.â€
The Leafs jumped ahead 1-0 midway through the first period.
A half a minute after the Leafsâ€™ goal, Kodiaksâ€™ star winger Stephen Ryan capitalized on a turnover to tie the game 1-1.
The teams remained tied until the final minute.
Needing a win to advance to the gold medal game, the Leafs pulled goaltender Brad Rebagliati in favour of an extra attacker, in a desperate bid for the winning marker.
This allowed Aldergroveâ€™s Aaron Markin to deposit the puck into the empty net with 22 seconds to go in the contest.
RUN TO REMEMBER
The Kodiaks earned a spot in the four-team Cyclone Taylor Cup tourney by winning the PJHL final series against the powerhouse Richmond Sockeyes.
The Kodiaks posted four wins against a powerhouse team that only lost five times throughout the 44-game PJHL regular season, and led not only the Tom Shaw Conference but the entire league with a 34-5-3-2 record.
In doing so, the Aldergrove junior Bs erased a 3-1 series deficit to win the playoff title in seven contests.
The Kodiaks (who lost the first two contests) won the final three games of the series: 3-0 March 27 at Richmondâ€™s Minoru Arena; 3-2 in overtime March 29 at Aldergrove Arena; and 5-1 in the seventh and deciding game March 31 at Minoru Arena.
The playoff title added to what has been an excellent season for the Kodiaks, who finished on top of the Harold Brittain Conference with a 34-6-2-2 regular season record before beating the Mission City Outlaws in four games and Abbotsford Pilots in five games in the first two rounds of the PJHLâ€™s post-season.