The Victoria Cougars came up one win shy of the Cyclone Taylor Cup - the holy grail of junior B hockey in B.C.
Despite the best efforts of Cougars defenceman Carl Ewert and centre Mateo Albinati, both Prince George minor hockey products, the Cougars lost in the gold-medal final 5-1 to the Revelstoke Grizzlies Sunday afternoon in Campbell River.
Ewert assisted on the lone Victoria goal scored by Tyler Vanuden which opened the scoring 1:21 into the game. Ryan Pereverzoff tied it for Revelstoke late in the first period and they scored two more goals in each of the second and third periods to put it away. Ryan Bedard scored three goals and Raymond Speerbrecker had the other goal.
The Cougars advanced to the final with a 3-0 win over the North Vancouver Wolf Pack Saturday afternoon..Bryce Irwin scored twice and Vanuden, Albinati's linemate, also scored for Victoria. In that game, goalie Owen Sikkes of Smithers made 32 saves for the shutout.
"It's pretty exciting, we've sort of turned it on of late in the playoffs," said Albinati, following the win over North Vancouver. "Everyone's bought in and that's made us probably the most feared team of all three leagues.
"Owen has been our brick wall back there and we win games we shouldn't win because of him. Our power play has been pretty hot of late and we scored early on a power play to put us up 1-0. We got into penalty trouble in the second and we took 12 minutes of penalties in the second. Most of the game was played on special teams"
The Grizzlies advanced with a 3-2 triumph over the host Campbell River Storm Saturday night. The Storm went on to lose the bronze-medal game 3-2 in overtime to the Wolf Pack.
The Cyclone Taylor Cup is a four-team round-robin tournament which pits the respective playoff winners of the province's three junior B leagues - Vancouver Island, Pacific and Kootenay International - and host Campbell River. The Cougars finished second overall to Campbell River in the season but beat the Storm 4-1 in the playoff final.
The Cyclone Cup winner will advance to the Keystone Cup Western Canadian championship, April 19-22 in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Albinati, who turned 20 in February, has 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points in 16 games and leads the Cougars in playoff scoring. The six-foot-two, 191-pound forward finished fifth in the league scoring race with 25 goals and 31 assists for 56 points in 38 games. Albinati, a second-year Cougar, was leading the league in scoring in November and had just gotten called up to the BCHL with the Cowichan Valley Capitals in November when he broke his ring finger when a teammate slammed the gate on his hand. That forced him to miss 12 games and scuttled his BCHL debut.
Ewert, 21, is in his third year with the Cougars and is the team captain. He had three goals and nine assists in 44 regular season games and has a goal and four assists in the playoffs. He's the son of former Spruce King defenceman Jim Ewert.
The Cougars opened the tournament Thursday with a 4-1 win over Revelstoke, then lost 3-2 in overtime Friday to Campbell River.