The Kitimat Ice Demons put the icing on the cake, after an up and down CIHL season, by beating nemesis Williams Lake Stampeders 3-0 in the round robin and 8-5 in the final, to win their fourth Coy Cup – the BC Senior Men’s AA provincial championship – in six seasons.
For the two teams it was a reversal over the 2008-9 season, when the Ice Demons won the CIHL playoff championship Rio Tinto Alcan Cup, but lost to the Stampeders in the Coy Cup in Terrace while the Stamps went on to win the provincial championship.
This season, the Demons again lost the CIHL championship, by a goal on the road, in a 7-6 loss to the Stampeders in game three – and just over a week later the two teams faced one another again in the opening game of the Coy Cup.
This time, the Ice Demons won another ding-dong affair when they broke a scoreless game with five minutes to play in the third period, scoring three times in less than two minutes, to send the frustrated Stampeders back to the dressing room.
Goals were scored by Daniel Mayer (Craig Hewitson, Blaine Markwart) on the power play at 14.18 (with Phil Simoes in the box for slashing); then 30 seconds later, by Derek Wakita (Jeff Baker) and finally by Markwart (Wade Masch, Hewitson), at 16.03.
Kitimat, with the win over the Stampeders, added to a 3-2 win over the host Prince Rupert Rampage, and a tough 5-3 loss to the defending champion Powell River Regals, earned the coveted bye to the final, by the narrowest margin, on the goals-for and goals-against tie breaker formula with the Demons, Stampeders and Regals all having two wins.
The Regals also had a win over the Rampage, while Williams Lake beat the Regals and the Rampage.
Thus, Williams Lake lined up against the Regals in the semi-finals Friday night, seeking a spot against the Demons in the final. They succeeded with a stirring second victory over the 2010 champs, shutting them out 1-0 in the first and 3-0 in the second before the dam burst in the third as the very-physical Regals rallied to 4-3, then 5-4 with two shorthanded goals before an empty-net goal with just under a minute remaining gave the Stampeders the 6-4 win.
In the final the Ice Demons took the offensive early, scoring twice in the first period on goals by Mayer (Baker, Doug Higginson) and Jeff Mildenberger (Craig Hewitson).
However, the Demons lost defenseman Baker just six minutes in when he suffered a painful groin injury that forced him to leave the game.
Williams Lake expended major effort, out-shooting the Demons 9-8, but found goaltender Jamie Moran playing at his very best and the defenders and back-checkers playing in energy.
In the second period, the pressure from Williams Lake continued, but the Demons went ahead 3-0 on a backhanded skipper shot by Ben Rego (Ian Coleman) that eluded Stampeder goaltender Justin Foote.
Down by three, the Stampeders upped the pressure and finally got the puck behind Moran off the stick of Gilbert Robbins (Jeff Gagnon, Brent McIsaac) and surged back to 3-2 when the Demon defence lost the puck behind the net and Wilfred Robbins finished the play, with assists to Francis Johnson and Robin Gilbert.
The Ice Demons immediately pushed back and restored a two goal lead with young defenseman Kyle Madsen (Mayer) hammering a hard point shot behind Foote to make the score 4-2.
Then with under two minutes left in the period, Terry Whelan added a pretty goal as he finished off a great tick-tack-toe passing play with Derek Wakita and Coleman, who each earned assists on the play.
That’s how the teams went to the second intermission, with the Demons leading 5-3 and knowing Williams Lake had pulled a couple of irons out of the fire before with dramatic third period goal outbursts.
And it looked like maybe Williams Lake could pull it off again as they closed in the score with two early goals in the third period, the first a power-play goal by Jeff Gagnon (Paul Girodat, Robbins) at the 2:13 mark of the period and then, one minute later, a controversial goal which was pushed across the line after the whistle.
Referee Korey Martens conferred with his linesmen and awarded the goal, much to the consternation of the Demons’ bench and the crowd.
The Demons players then rallied hard and goaltender Moran put up the wall and there was no further scoring until 14.28 when a fast up-ice clearance by David Venman from inside the Demons’ zone, sent Hewitson in alone on a breakaway on Foote and the centre made no mistake, restoring the Demons two goal lead.
Just 38 seconds later Kory Finn put the knife into the wound for Williams Lake, when he tipped a Rob Lafferty shot past Foote.
Although Gilbert (Francis Johnson, Wilfred Robbins) scored for the Stampeders under a minute later, the die was cast and Markwart finished it off with an empty net slap shot goal with an assist going to Coleman.
The win was very satisfying for the Ice Demons, especially after the one-goal loss in the CIHL playoff final and the illness of head coach Danny Baker, who was replaced for the Coy Cup competition by Mike Steponavicius.
Baker came on to the ice and was saluted as the Coy Cup gold medals and the Cup itself was presented to Derek Wakita by BCAHA Senior Hockey representative Mike Fraser.
Moran earned player of the game for the second time in the week.
The host Prince Rupert Rampage put on a good show at the Coy Cup but were disappointed by the level of local support after they were eliminated Wednesday night.
A large contingent of Kitimat fans arrived for the Saturday night final and gave the Ice Demons a great hand throughout the game.