The Terrace River Kings are gearing up for the Coy Cup Championship in Whitehorse at the end of the month, after triumphing in Williams Lake last weekend to secure the CIHL trophy.
After three straight years taking silver in the coy, coach Kevin Legros says he hopes it’s the year to claim the cup.
“We’re hoping for gold… if we work hard, good things will happen,” Legros said, adding that focus and executing the game plan will be key.
Competition will be fierce in the Coy Cup March 28 to April 1, with the top four senior men’s AA teams in B.C. and Yukon.
The River Kings have played Whitehorse last year, and know they’re a force to be reckoned with, and they’ll also face off against Kelowna and North Island from Port Hardy — both uncharted territory.
“It will be tough, all three teams will be quality opponents,” said forward Tristan Murray, adding that they’ll be drawing on experience from the last three years, and hope this will be their chance to make it over the hump.
“The Coy Cup kind of feels like unfinished business for us, so it’s good to get another crack at it,” he said.
Hopefully the River Kings will be energized by the momentum of last weekend’s triumph in Williams Lake, where the team secured two intense victories to net the title.
After dropping the first game of the series 2-4 to Williams Lake on March 4 in Terrace, the River Kings laid everything on the line in an exhausting triple-overtime battle on Saturday, March 11.
“They never gave up,” said Legros of the game. “It was a total team effort, all weekend. The boys were disciplined… believed we could do it… everybody right down to the fourth line contributed.”
Murray said they really poured it on early, knowing their lives were on the line.
“We really took it to them, we outshot them by quite a lot at the start of the game,” he said, adding that Williams Lake definitely stepped it up in the third and overtimes to even up shots and find some good chances.
Saturday’s scoring was led by Corbin Legros with a beautiful shot upstairs in the first period.
But when Austin Legros took a power play at the end of the first, it gave the Stampeders the edge they needed to tie it up.
The Stampeders continued to capitalize on power plays, notching another power play goal to take a 2-1 lead in the second.
Early in the third, Steve Cullis tied it up again, but not for long as the Stampeders really turned it on in the third.
They clinched two goals, including their third power play goal, to claim a 2-4 lead with eight minutes left.
But Ben Reinbolt seized a chance just 30 seconds later, which marked a key turning point for the River Kings, Murray said.
“That was huge moment,” he commented. “It gave us a lot of hope that we could come back.”
Two minutes later, Brett Downie scored off a rebound from Murray to tie up the game 4-4.
“We were definitely riding a high after that,” Murray said, adding that the Stampeders matched their heat as they went into overtime.
The two overtimes that followed were “intense and exhausting,” with two heart-stopping crossbar shots from the Stampeders.
The battle waged into third overtime, where the River Kings managed to kill a power play before finally clinching the game-winner — a beautiful cross-ice pass from Steve Cullis to Luke Walker who easily buried the shot.
After the gruelling 5-4 win, the teams hauled themselves to the ice again the next day, March 12, for the deciding game.
The team was tired, sore, but confident after having stolen the momentum the night before, Murray said.
“It was a goaltenders dual,” Murray said, noting that there were magnificent saves on either end.
“Their goalie made close to 40 saves, and only let in two… I think we outshot them by quite a bit, but the saves that our goalie had to make were some really Grade-A chances,” Murray said.
Luke Gordon scored a shorthanded goal in the first period, and it wasn’t until the third that the Stampeders tied it up. Corbin Legros clinched a snapshot off the crossbar to earn the lead with eight minutes left, and though Stampeders executed a strong final surge, the River Kings managed to hold them off to win 2-1.
“It was an unreal weekend,” said Legros. “They played their hearts out…Credit to Williams Lake, they’re a good team, and their goalie was outstanding as well as ours. Both goalies were clearly the MVPs.”
Rathjen was honoured as the MVP for CIHL playoffs — “very deserving,” said Murray.
Luke Walker took MVP for whole league.
Legros extended thanks to all the support staff and trainers who work in the background, and to all sponsors and fans for their support.
“Hopefully we can bring them back the same result (the win) in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Photo below: William and Robert Orrey hold up the CIHL trophy.