The Whitehorse Huskies are the 2017 Coy Cup Champions with a 7-4 win over the Kelowna Sparta. Huskies scored a late shorthanded goal followed shortly afterwards with an empty netter to seal the deal.
Congratulations to the Huskies on their first Coy Cup Champions and to Whitehorse for being first rate hosts.
(Incidentally the last senior men's championship for Whitehorse was the 1993 Whitehorse Huskies National Alan Cup win.)
By Marissa Tiel on April 3, 2017
Inside an arena packed with rowdy fans, the Whitehorse Huskies did what they have been talking about all season: they hoisted the Coy Cup on home ice.
The Huskies beat the Kelowna Sparta 7-4 Saturday night at Takhini Arena, on ice where many of the players learned to skate.
“I remember being in this rink, learning how to skate backwards with your nose on the ice,” said Derek Klassen. “At 30 years old [to] have the opportunity to come out here in front of a bunch of people that we care about in the stands and be able to lift it at home is a pretty special feeling.”
The Huskies have been chasing the Coy Cup, BC Hockey’s Senior AA Championship ever since the program was revived three years ago.
“We put three years into this and these boys never looked back once,” said an emotional coach Mike Tuton after the game. “We had our eye on one prize and that’s what you see here and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone in this room, in this organization and in this city.
“We put on a show this week and it was worth it.”
The Huskies found out they would be hosting the tournament in October.
The road to the championship hasn’t been easy for the home team. They were 7-1 in the regular season with their only loss coming from the Sparta.
As hosts, they had a bye into the Coy Cup final four and were joined by the North Island Capitals, the Terrace River Kings and the Kelowna Sparta.
Whitehorse opened their tournament with a win over North Island before dropping their next game against Terrace and tying with the Sparta.
Kelowna put up the best round-robin record with two wins and a tie to gain a bye into Saturday night’s final.
Terrace and Whitehorse faced off Friday night in the semifinal.
The Huskies got on the board early and never let up.
Forward Ted Stephens, who was named the tournament MVP, recorded a hat trick.
“I definitely had a bit of puck luck tonight,” he said following the semifinal game. “It feels good for sure.”
Stephens also picked up two goals and an assist in the final.
“We knew Whitehorse was going to come hard,” said Terrace head coach Kevin Legros. “We beat them a couple nights ago, so there was a bit of redemption coming there. We just didn’t weather the storm early and made a few mistakes and they got ahead of us.”
It was the first time in four years the River Kings wouldn’t be in the finals.
“That hurts a little bit,” said Legros. “We’ve been three years second place in a row and thought maybe we could finish this off with a gold, but things happen.”
Instead it would be a showdown between two teams whose rivalry has been brewing all season.
It was Kelowna’s first season in the B.C. Senior AA league and they showed up to play.
“We came here believing we could win and we went into the game believing we could win and that’s when it really stings more, you know, we came here to win the game and came up short,” said Kelowna coach Kim Barnstable. “So as far as our first year, we can take some consolation in that, but after that, it really hurts.”
The Huskies started the final hard and fast when Kane Dawe got the team on the board just about six minutes into the first period. Simon Nugent would get one more past Kelowna goalie Tyler Briggs before the Sparta could answer with one of their own.
Aaron Buat got a shot past Jon Olthuis, who was back in net for the Huskies after exiting their first game with an apparent knee injury.
“We saw progress every day so I knew it wasn’t anything major,” he said. “It was hard sitting, watching, but Gainsy (JJ Gainsforth) stepped up and took the boys all the way to the final and I was feeling good enough to give it a shot and here we are, champs and it’s such a great, well-rounded group of players.”
Midway through the second period, the Huskies’ Rob Stuckey and Kelowna’s Kelly Loudoun dropped gloves. Both left the ice bloodied.
On the ensuing Whitehorse power play, Kevin Petovello found the back of the net to make it 4-2 for the Huskies.
Also scoring in the second period were Stephens and Kelowna’s Jason Deleurme, to make it 5-3 for Whitehorse at the end of 40 minutes.
Halfway through the third, with Adam Henderson in the box for boarding, Shawn Mueller found the back of the net for Kelowna to bring the Sparta within one.
“We just had to lock it down,” said Huskies captain Evan Campbell. “We tried not to panic on the bench. We tried to keep our composure and not get too crazy and not get out of position.”
Shorthanded and with two minutes and 56 seconds remaining, Klassen snipped a shot past Briggs on a pass from Petovello.
“Kevin made an unbelievable play there,” said Klassen. “I think that kind of finished it, made them press a little bit.”
Kelowna pulled their goalie for an extra man, but it was too little, too late and Stephens scored an empty-netter to seal the game.
The Huskies took a time out with 42 seconds left and the bench was smiling ear to ear.
“It’s amazing. To start this program up three years ago and then three years down the road, to host it at home is something special. Look at the crowd we had out there,” said Campbell after raising the cup above his head. “It’s amazing winning in front of a home crowd.”