Benjafield’s late goal sends North Shore to victory
North Shore Winter Club scored late in regulation time Wednesday night at Cowichan Arena to beat rival Burnaby Winter Club 4-3 for the provincial Bantam Tier 1 hockey championship.
The host Cowichan Valley Capitals claimed third place in the six-team tournament despite losing 4-2 to Prince George earlier in the day.
North Shore and Burnaby waged a great battle that came to a dramatic conclusion in the late stages on a goal by Quinn Benjafield. Burnaby, the two-time defending Western Canadian champions, won the round robin meeting 4-3, but North Shore took the game that mattered by the same score.
“It was a great final, a team we’re pretty familiar with,’’ said North Shore coach Jim Dinwoodie.
“We were pretty banged up going into that game. Our guys kind of stepped up and we asked guys to elevate and buy in.’’
North Shore was down two goals in the first period and “we had to manufacture a bit of luck,’’ conceded Dinwoodie.
“I thought that first goal kind of got us going.’’
Jordy Bellerive set up Benjafield’s winner, proving Dinwoodie’s point that going to the net with the game tied and on the line was worth a shot.
“In the third, there’s not going to be a bad shot to take,’’ he said.
The timing was also key to Dinwoodie. Had there still been three minutes or so remaining, it might have been a different story. But Burnaby ran out of time quickly to attempt a comeback.
“They were stunned,’’ Dinwoodie observed. “I think they felt they had us. They knew our situation with our health and our body count.’’
Through it all, Dinwoodie wasn’t totally surprised his team prevailed.
“The team has shown a ton of character,’’ he said. “We’ve found ways all year. Our strength of character is ultimately the difference. Thankfully, that game ended in regulation. I don’t know what we had left.’’
After beating Kamloops 3-2 Tuesday night on goals by Ryan Hogg, Josh Anderson and Darian Harris, and great goaltending by Ty Rennie, the Caps locked up third place no matter what the outcome against Prince George Wednesday.
They still wanted to go out on a winning note and made a strong start with a 2-0 lead after the first period, but then fell flat and gave up four unanswered goals.
Ben Berard and Anderson put Cowichan in the driver’s seat against winless Prince George with goals in the first period, but that was all the offense the Caps could muster.
Prince George scored three times in the second period — including twice on the power play — and once more in the third period with the man advantage to turn the tables.
“We just kind of broke down as a team, didn’t stick to our program,’’ said defenceman Anderson, who will be looking to make a move to Major Midget with the South Island Royals next season.
“We tried to get them motivated,’’ said Caps’ coach Derek Topping. “It just wasn’t happening. They took advantage of our mistakes, I guess.
“But they had a very successful year. We don’t want one game to take away from that.’’
North Shore heads to the Western Canadian championships in Kindersley, Saskatchewan April 4 to 7.