The Penticton Vees are the 2017 Fred Page Cup winners as BCHL champions.
Duncan Campbell’s goal 9:21 into overtime was the only goal scored in a 1-0 Vees win at Prospera Centre Tuesday night, giving the Vees their third title since 2012 and denying the Chiefs their first title since 2002.
“I’m feeling on top of the world, there’s no feeling quite like it,” a jubilant Campbell said seconds after hoisting the trophy over his head. “I’ve never scored a goal that comes even remotely close to this one. We’ve been in a lot of big games, but this one takes the cake for sure.”
— Fraser Rodgers (@VeesVoice) April 26, 2017
Penticton goaltender Mathew Robson stopped 26 shots for the shutout and had a good look at Campbell’s winner from 200 feet away.
“It looked really good from where I was and this feels really good,” the netminder said. “I saw that red light go on and I kind of blacked out for a moment as I thought about everyone who helped us get here. Then I went for a skate down the ice to celebrate with the boys.
“Winning a championship always feels good and it’s even better to do it with the 23 guys in our room who are my family.
“We’ve still got a lot of hockey to play but we’re going to enjoy this tonight.”
Through each of the four games played at Prospera Centre during the series, Chiefs fans in the bar that overlooks the visitor’s net gave the goalie grief with a loud and persistent ‘Rooobsooooon’ chant.
“There’s nothing I like more than silencing a crowd,” the netminder said with a smile. “It was nice to kind of stick it to them.”
Though they made it into OT, Chilliwack’s hopes may have died on the first shift of the game when Kohen Olischefski slid into the end boards behind the Robson’s cage and got up limping.
He wasn’t right after that, though he tried to warrior through the pain. Tommy Lee dressed but was limited to a handful of shifts, gutting out a shoulder injury. With Kale Kane sidelined altogether, Jason Tatarnic’s bench was short three top-six skaters.
“Olly didn’t want to come out of the game at all, but eventually he had to,” the Chiefs bench boss said. “They wanted to win, wanted to give it everything they had.”
Deprived of his linemate, Jordan Kawaguchi was left to go it alone, trying his best to beat the Vees one on five.
Playing his final home game as a Chief, the captain almost pulled it off once or twice.
“I’ve been in this league 10 years and in my time I haven’t seen anybody do what he did in the playoffs,” Penticton head coach Fred Harbinson said. “He was absolutely amazing.”
— BC Hockey League (@bchllive) April 26, 2017
The Chilliwack forwards still standing couldn’t pick up the scoring slack. The Chiefs struggled to get sustained pressure and failed to capitalize on the scoring chances they got.
Left along in the goal-mouth, Jake Smith got a pass from defenceman Colin Bernard. But the New York kid fanned on a backhand shot with Robson down and the top half of the net open. Taking a pass from Lee, Ben Fanjoy had Robson beat but not the post, ringing his shot off iron.
Anything Chilliwack put on net, Robson was in position to stop.
“Mat was unreal and he’s been a rock for us all year,” Campbell said. “Getting the big shutout in a game seven, we couldn’t ask for any more from him.”
Faulting Sinclair on Penticton’s game winning goal would be criminal. The goalie pitched a 37 save shutout for 69:21 before Campbell beat him.
Chilliwack doesn’t get to overtime unless Sinclair stops Taylor Sanheim’s one-timer from the high slot, and he made an even bigger save on Owen Sillinger one shift later as the Penticton forward blew past Carver Watson on a rush down down the right wing.
On the goal that set off the Vees celebration, Penticton defenceman James Miller sent a pass across to point partner Gabe Bast, who hammered the puck on net. With bodies in the blue paint, Sinclair barely saw it and couldn’t get to the rebound before Campbell, who wheeled and stuffed the puck across the line.
Campbell got the glory but it was Bast who was a true difference maker at both ends in the series.
“Gabe won it two years ago with us, last year plays eight games and this year misses just about the whole season, but he is one of the best defencemen in junior hockey and it was huge for us getting him back at the end of the year,” Harbinson said. “I’m so proud of him and how he makes the play at the end.”
In a sombre Chilliwack locker room afterwards, Tatarnic sat back and pondered what he called ‘an odd feeling.’
There’s the finality of losing the final, but there’s also knowing his Chiefs are going to see the Vees again when they play in the Western Canada Cup.
“You’re disappointed for your players because the goal is to win the league championship, and we battled right to the end,” Tatarnic said. “But it’s good that it stings because we’re going to another tournament with an opportunity to qualify for nationals.
“That’s the only positive that comes out of this, I guess.”