In the end, it all worked out great for David Robinson.
The 19-year-old who walked away from the Western Hockey League’s Chilliwack Bruins in early December has won a BCHL championship with his hometown team, the Vernon Vipers.
Robinson and company polished off the Powell River Kings last Monday, capping a thrilling best-of-seven series to claim the junior A title.
“It doesn’t get any better,” Robinson told the Vernon Morning Star. “I had a bunch of family in the stands tonight and I wanted to win for them and the guys in the room.”
The penultimate game of the series was everything one would expect from two evenly matched teams in a winner-takes-all scenario — Plenty of hits, heart-on-your sleeve hustle, game-saving stops and last-minute heroics, all fuelled by two teams running on fumes.
Sahir Gill collected the winner on an odd-man rush with linemates Connor and Kellen Jones with five minutes remaining as the Snakes iced the Kings 3-1. Three thousand fans held their collective breath as referee Trevor Hanson consulted with linesmen Matt Thurston and Nathan Vanoosten to see if Gill had kicked the puck in (Connor’s centering pass deflected in off his skate).
When the goal was confirmed, the crowd exploded with delight. In his mind, this is what Robinson was picturing when he made the choice to leave Chilliwack and come home.
“Coming in halfway through the year I was new to the team, but right when I got here I knew this was a close-knit group with so many leaders,” he said. “We faced a lot of adversity in this series, even against Quesnel and Penticton, and our leadership put us over the top, and our young guys stepped up as well. It’s a good mix in there.”
After a brief rest, Robinson’s Vipers head for Alberta, where they will face the Spruce Grove Saints in the Doyle Cup Championship. Robinson played 169 career regular season games for the Bruins and left as the all-time penalty minutes leader.
— On a side note to this story, further proof that sports can sometimes be cruel. Forty-three-year old Kent Lewis has coached teams to the BCHL final five times and he has never won.
“It’s getting a little old getting this far and not getting it done,” said Lewis, who played for the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Cougars in the early 1980’s. “My brother has tagged me with Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills coach who lost four Super Bowls).”