For the first time in 22 years, the John Taylor Pipers’ theme song is We are the Champions.
Forward Christian Vallance scored the deciding goal at 4:24 of the 10-minute overtime to lift John Taylor to a 2-1 win over a gritty Oak Park Raiders team and earn the Winnipeg High School Hockey League’s Platinum Promotions division title at the MTS Iceplex on Tuesday.
The overtime win gives the Pipers a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-three final series. The most valuable players for both sides were the goaltenders, Oak Park’s Tyler Dodd and John Taylor’s Brett Bigourdin.
John Taylor, who won the first game 3-1 on Monday, was outshot 60-41 in the two games by the Raiders.
"We are all so speechless right now, we never thought it would come to this. We’ve played together all our lives and worked so hard for it. We pulled it off," said Vallance, who scored the game-winner unassisted, ripping a shot past Dodd high over the blocker.
The Pipers played Tuesday’s final with just four defencemen due to injuries to Thomas Pasieka and Tristan Boyer in Monday’s game.
"We really came together this year and we battled hard together today," said Vallance, one of 13 Grade 12 players on the team. "We knew they (Raiders) were in a situation where they didn’t want to be out. They’re a good team and they took it to us but we just stayed composed, got the puck deep. Defensively, everyone’s worn out!"
Pipers defencemen Graham Philp and David Friesen were the best defencemen on the ice and showed why on John Taylor’s first goal, scored with 40 seconds left in the first frame. At the blue-line, Philp snapped a pass across to Friesen, who fired hard on net and had his shot tipped in by forward Nicholas Pierce to take the 1-0 advantage.
The Raiders came out flying to start the second period, with Carson Krisko scoring the tying goal for the Raiders 3:17 in. Oak Park outshot John Taylor 13-3.
The Pipers, winning the third title overall for their school, are one of just seven teams to win the championship title in the 26-year history of the WHSHL. John Taylor also won it in 1987-88 and 1990-91 while Oak Oark has never won it. Other past champions include Sturgeon Creek (1), Stonewall (4), River East (6), St. Paul’s (11), St. John’s-Ravenscourt (1) and Westwood (1).
In the past 10 years, only two teams not named St. Paul’s won the title — River East (2005-06) and Westwood (2009-10).
The St. Paul’s Crusaders, eliminated earlier in the playoffs by Stonewall, had won eight of the past 10 WHSHL titles.