After blowing a two-goal lead early in the third period Saturday night in the South Surrey Arena, the Valley West Hawks played like champions.
Leading 1-0 in the best-of-three BC Hockey Major Midget League final against the Cariboo Cougars, the Hawks shrugged off the loss of their lead and regrouped to dominate the last 15 minutes of the game and score five unanswered goals to clinch a provincial championship with a 9-4 victory.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to finish the Cougars off,” said Hawks head coach Jessie Leung. “Saying that, our team stood firm. No panic.”
Valley West, 4-1 winners in the first game of the series played Friday night in the Langley Events Centre, erased a pair of two-goal deficits in the series-clinching game Saturday night. The Cougars were the better team over the first 15 minutes of play, outshooting the Hawks 12-2 and scoring scored the first two goals of the game.
But momentum shifted when the Hawks went on the powerplay for the first time and got on the scoresheet when Ben Evanish tapped home a rebound on a shot from Kabir Gill.
The Hawks had a couple of goals called back early in the second period, but Josh Bruce was able to tie the score early then Ilijah Colina and James Malm found the net for a 4-2 lead for Valley West after two periods.
“We had great momentum going. We put two past (Cougars goalie Dorrin) Luding early but the ref called both off,” said Leung. “Honestly I think it added fuel to the fire and Bruce put one in that counted.”
Cariboo regrouped to start the third period and struck for two goals in a 58-second span to time the game 4-4. But it was all Hawks the rest of the way, as Malm led a Valley West surge over the final dozen minutes, scoring three times and assisting on goals by Christian Bosa and Gill.
Malm netted the winning goal with 12 minutes to go, taking a pass from Michael Farren and putting a backhand just under the cross bar.
“That was the back breaker, the game breaker,” said Leung. “Once we scored that goal I knew we had it.”
Evanish, Bruce, Farren and Luka Burzan were the goal scorers in Friday night’s win. As BC Hockey Major Midget League champions, the Hawks were presented with the Cromie Memorial Cup for the first time.
“I’m immensely proud of our players, coaching staff and parent group. Winning the Cromie wasn’t an accident, it was the sum total of our hard work and dedication,” said Leung.
The Hawks will travel to Alberta for a Pacific Region best-of-three series against the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League champions. The Lloydminster Bobcats lead the Foothills Bisons of Strathmore 2-0 in their best-of-five final.
The Pacific Region champion advances to the six-team Telus Cup in New Brunswick April 18-24.