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Spirit scores upset win at Penticton provincials
A change in their forechecking helped the Vancouver Spirit upset the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 in overtime to win the 2014 B.C. Hockey midget tier 2 championship.
Spirit coach Mischa Polzin had a trick up his sleeve as he utilized a forechecking system other team’s hadn’t seen. The move paid off when Ian Creamore beat Rockets goalie Jordan Reynolds five-hole with 1:11 remaining in overtime Wednesday night at Memorial Arena.
As Creamore dropped to a knee and pumped his fist, some Rocket players bent forward in disbelief that the championship slipped away. It was a season finale that featured physical play, a defensive chess match at times with tremendous goaltending.
Polzin said he felt his players were a little tired after defeating Saanich 4-3 in double overtime earlier that day. With several third-year players on the Spirit, Polzin told them was their last chance to win something. The year before, they lost the championship to Penticton in West Kelowna.
“You just have to work through every pain. You have nothing else to do tomorrow except drive home,” Polzin said to his players. “Enjoy this moment. Go out and earn it.”
Creamore, who was fighting a scoring drought, buried the winner while playing with a separated right shoulder sustained against Saanich.
“You hesitate sometimes in the corners, but you just have to battle through,” he said of playing through the injury. “Pain doesn’t last forever. Pride lasts forever, just had to get it done.”
Creamore did just that after taking a feed from Travis Beaubien. Creamore said he felt a sigh of relief upon watching his shot trickle in.
“I had a monkey on my back for the whole tournament, nothing was going in,” he said. “I was glad we could pull it off.”
The Rockets had chances to pull away, especially when given a two-man advantage during the last minute of play in the second that carried into the third period. The Rockets had a few chances on the power-play but Forster was there to deny them.
“They had some really good opportunities there to bury some,” said Spirit net minder Alex Forster.
After killing off penalties in the first five minutes of the third, Creamore said they knew they needed to get it done.
Spirit forward Joey Guzzo tied the game beating Reynolds high blocker with three minutes remaining on a setup up by Creamore and Adam Zielinski.
“After we got that goal we just started pounding away,” said Cremore, adding that the players believed they could win.
“Kelowna, give them credit, they were unbelievable,” said Polzin. “Their goalie was phenomenal.”
The Penticton Quiznos midget tier 2 Vees ended their season bowing 5-0 to the Spirit.
It was the final round robin game for the two teams Tuesday night.
Vees coach Lance Vaillancourt said his team played well. A five-minute penalty for checking from behind made it tough to battle back.
“That five-minute penalty just took the wind out of our sails,” he said. “I thought the boys did really well in keeping their composure. They did a good job in terms of representing their community.”
Vaillancourt said he didn’t feel it was a 5-0 game as his team trailed 2-0 going into the final period. The Spirit blew the game open on the power play. Vaillancourt said it was tough to create offence since the Spirit played a very structured game. In the last half of the game, the Vees only managed a few scoring chances.
Forward Spencer Hook said part of that was due to the Spirit’s ability to move the play up ice quickly, adding they have a good transition game.
“Their D-men were doing really good today,” he said.
“I think we tried as hard as we could,” said Vees captain Liam Hutcheson.
Forward Jesse Keylock said they played hard.
“I think they are a bit more skilled than last year,” he said.
For Hutcheson, Keylock and Hook, it was their final minor hockey game.
“It’s kind of sad,” said Hutcheson, who is excited to possibly make the jump to the junior B level with the Osoyoos Coyotes after playing with the team as an affiliate player. Keylock said he’s going to miss it while Hook said it was pretty emotional.
“It was kind of nice to play in front of the home crowd,” said Hook.
Along with Keylock and Hook, Dennis Zoeller were the returning players from last year’s provincial championship team.
In other provincial action, the Sherwood Trophy peewee tier 2 Vees faced Williams Lake for third-place after they defeated Juan de Fuca 5-0 on March 18. The third-place game was a rematch as Williams Lake defeated Penticton 5-3 on March. 17. The B.C. Hockey website was not updated with the result as of press time and coach Greg Berkholtz couldn’t be reached for comment.
The bantam tier 2 championship featured the Vees and North Shore Winter Club Thursday, with the Vees winning 4-1 to become provincial champs. The two teams met in the opening game of the tournament which ended 3-3.
Josh Maser of the Murray GM Penticton Vees battles for a loose puck with Saanich Braves captain Taylor Redmond in the corner during his team's Tuesday morning game at bantam Tier 2 provincials at the Mission Leisure Centre. Penticton won the game 6-0.