They needed one more comeback.
But after a thrilling week of hockey that saw the Terrace River Kings come from behind to win all three round robin games to gain a bye to the Coy Cup championship final Saturday, March 28, the team didn’t get it, losing 6-1 to the Fort St. John Flyers in Fort Nelson to take silver at the AA senior men’s championship for the second year in a row.
“I think that they watched us play all week and figured out what they had to do to win. They’re a good team, there’s no question about it,” said River Kings general manager Ray Hallock this morning.
“We beat them fair and square in the first game, and they just came out a little stronger (this game),” he said, referencing the Kings’ 4-3 OT win against the AAA Flyers in game one of the tournament.
River Kings captain Steve Cullis said the team went in expecting a close championship game, and for the most part, it was.
At the end of the first period the Flyers were up 1-0, with the Kings tying it up in the second on the power play. But Fort St. John scored two late second period goals to make it 3-1 after 40 minutes, and managed to keep the momentum going in the third.
“We kept it close ‘til late in the second, they got a power play goal and a bit of a break to make it 3-1 and then we still felt good about the game going into the third, but they got a quick one right at the start of the third and kind of just laid it up,” he said.
“We gave them a couple of breaks and they capitalized and then we just couldn’t recover after that one at the start of the third,” he continued.
Taking second place to the Flyers was a bittersweet end to a phenomenal season that saw the Kings win the CIHL league championship for the first time ever, and a Coy Cup tournament that showcased a number of standout moments for the River Kings.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever won our league, so that’s something that everyone on this team should be proud about,” said Cullis.
“Obviously when you win three games and lose one, it’s a good week, we just lost the wrong one, for whatever reason it wasn’t our best game and that’s just the way it went,” said Cullis, of the tournament.
Terrace’s Chapen Leblond “had a good week, Ben Reinbolt had a good week, and our goalie [Patrick Leal] had a good week to name a few, and then (goalie) Josh Murray had a great game in the finals even though we lost.”
Game one against Fort St. John jumped back and forth before being forced into overtime where Chapen Leblond snuck one past the Flyers’ goalie to get the 4-3 win.
And that OT moment must have sparked something in Leblond – game two against the Powell River Regals saw him score four goals in the second period to close the 3-0 deficit the Regals had gained in the first and ignite the Kings’ momentum towards a 7-4 win.
Leblond was given the MVP in game two, with River Kings general manager Ray Hallock noting that goaltender Patrick Leal “stood on his head” that game and was well-deserving of MVP in game three, a 5-3 win over the hometown Fort Nelson Yeti – another game that saw the Kings climb back from a 3-0 hole after the first. That win gave the team a bye into the championship, and a day of rest on Friday.
But heading into the championship against the Flyers Saturday – who earned their spot with a 10-3 win over the Yeti in the semi-finals on Friday – the Kings knew they’d have a tough competitor.
“I can’t say I’m not disappointed but I’m not disappointed in my guys or the level of play or their intensity,” said Hallock.
“The reality is we still had the winning-est season in the history of the team. We only lost five games all year including in the league championships and the Coy Cup – we only lost one game in the Coy Cup, unfortunately it was the most important one.”
And for the young team – there isn’t a player over 30 – there are plenty of prime years left.
“We’ve got a great team. You can’t expect them to be super in one year – you’ve got to build up over a few years and that’s one of the things you can see that’s an advantage some of these other teams have. They’ve got more veteran players that have played together longer,” said Hallock. “I can’t take anything away from these boys, I think they’ve done the city of Terrace proud.
“This is the best bunch of guys that I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “Nobody’s blaming everybody, everybody’s still teammates and friends, I’m sure that’ll continue into next year.”
“This team will be good for as long as these guys want to keep playing,” said Cullis. “Hopefully we get another chance at it.”
“Two years silver, three times lucky,” added Hallock.