If Jeff Grenier needed any more reason to loathe the shootout, it came Tuesday night in Delta.
For the second year in a row, the head coach of the Sardis Falcons hockey squad saw his team lose a B.C. High School Hockey League final in a shootout.
Tuesday’s defeat came after Sardis staged a furious third period rally, coming back from four goals down against the Heritage Woods (Port Moody) Kodiaks.
Reflecting on the game Tuesday morning while watching his Sardis Hockey Academy troops practice at Twin Rinks, Grenier mused about what might have been.
“We were all over them in overtime and if we kept playing overtime we definitely would have capitalized,” the coach said with conviction. “But then, to leave it up to a 14 or 15 year old kid’s nerves, it (the shootout) takes the team out of it.
“There’s a reason why there’s no shootout in the NHL playoffs, but I guess that’s the nature of limited ice time and having the beer leaguers coming on after us.”
Heartbreaking as the final result was, Grenier had plenty of positives on his mind.
It would have been easy for the Falcons to pack it in after a rough opening 40.
They did not.
Goalie Cole Mayes had every reason to be discouraged after giving up four, but the netminder collected himself between the second and third periods and rose to the occasion.
“Cole kept his head high and didn’t let one in after the second period,” said forward Zach Feaver. “If he gets scored on, we don’t make the comeback.”
While Mayes held Heritage Woods at bay, Feaver got the comeback started, scoring the first of his two third period goals.
“We peppered their goalie at the start and once they started going in they started going in quick,” Feaver said.
Gerrit Lindhout also scored and a Jackson Mainse tally sent the game to OT.
“Putting a lot of shots on net, and no shot is a bad shot, that was our message heading into the third period,” Grenier said. “If we didn’t have the puck we needed to be like animals getting it back, and sure enough, the type of goals we got were on shots from the side of the net and little rebounds.
“We just believed that if we stayed on them, we had the skill and confidence to break through, and once we got that one goal we stayed on them and got the breaks.”
The Sardis roster for the final included nine forwards, four defenders and two goalies.
Four were Grade 12s (Lindhout, Mainse, Dawson Travis, Colby Brooks) playing their last game.
The Falcons had a nice mix of upper-tier talent and role players.
Feaver, Lindhout and Mainse played for the B.C. Major Midget Fraser Valley Thunderbirds last season and Grenier leaned on them a lot.
But unheralded players like Lucas Arnold made a big difference.
“Lucas is one of the guys who deserve a lot of credit for accepting a role and enjoyed doing their part,” Grenier said. “There were guys who had limited ice time who were supportive on the bench and never once got negative.
“That was so big for us.”
Sardis rolled through the BCHSHL regular season undefeated (3-0-1) and knocked off Charles Best in a thrilling semi-final, with Kobe Bonato scoring the winner with just 3.2 seconds on the clock.
Sardis expected to see Vancouver’s St. Georges School in a rematch of last year’s final. The powerful St. Georges team included future Kelowna Rocket Trevor Wong and future Chilliwack Chief Tyler Cristall.
“We had two awesomely close games against them in the regular season,” Grenier said. “We beat them once (4-3) and tied them (3-3) in the last game of the regular season.
“Shutting down those two players (Cristall/Wong) was pretty awesome.”
But a Heritage Woods squad that Sardis whomped 11-6 in their lone regular season meeting, stunned St. Georges by a 3-2 count in the semi-final round and got the better of the Falcons in the championship match.
Sardis made the final for the second time in just three seasons that the program has existed, a great accomplishment, and with a number of Grade 10 and 11 players due to return next year, Grenier anticipates being in the mix again next spring.
“Kids are eager to play and be a part of this spring hockey league,” he said. “The rink in Delta was full at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and the players had the pressure of a regular season game while playing in a high school environment.
“That’s something a lot of kids can get behind and they’re proud to be a part of this.”