The Okanagan Rockets came agonizingly close to fulfilling their season-long goal of winning the B.C. Major Midget League title.
In the end, it was the Vancouver Northwest Giants who were celebrating their fifth straight league championship on Sunday afternoon at the Burnaby Winter Club.
The Giants edged the Rockets 1-0 in the deciding game of the best-of-three affair, a series that could have gone either way at any moment.
Vancouver NW opened the weekend with a 3-1 victory Friday, sealing the Game 1 with an empty net goal.
On Saturday, the Rockets battled back in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 win in triple overtime. Josh Blanchard scored with 58 seconds left in regulation to force extra time, setting the stage for Liam Finley who deflected home the game winner at 13:40 of the third O.T. period.
On Sunday morning, with two fatigued squads going toe-to-toe, the lone goal and game winner came on a Giants’ power play midway in the second period.
While it wasn’t the desired outcome for the Rockets, GM David Michaud is no less proud of his team’s effort, both in the final and all season long.
“It’s tough and pretty deflating, but at the end of the day, it’s a one-goal loss to a very good hockey team in the final game of our season,” said Michaud. “I’m so proud of the effort and total commitment we had from all these guys. All 20 of them are champions in my book. They never quit, and to push a team like this to the limit like they did, I’m incredibly proud.”
The Rockets finished third in the BCMML regular season standings with a 26-6-8 record, before knocking off the Valley West Hawks in three games in the opening round of the playoffs, then sweeping the Cariboo Cougars in the league semifinal.
The Okanagan club will bid farewell to three 17-year-old (1995) players who are graduating from the program—Alex Gran, Cortlen Procter and Brenden Mills.
Following the series, Rockets defenceman Gen Bryshun reflected on being part of a memorable season and playoff run.
“Not a jersey I’d rather throw over my head, and logo I’d play for,” Bryshun tweeted after the final game. “Would go to war with every single one of you boys every day if I could.”
The Giants will now take on the Alberta champions for the right to represent the Pacific region at the Telus Cup national midget hockey finals next month in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.