Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

John Taylor crowned kings of high school ice

Gritty Pipers clinch cup

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For the first time in 22 years, the John Taylor Pipers' theme song is We are the Champions.

Forward Christian Vallance scored the game-winning goal in 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 gave the Pipers a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-three final. The most valuable players for both sides were the goaltenders, Oak Park's Tyler Dodd and John Taylor's Brett Bigourdin.

John Taylor, which 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 over Dodd's blocker.

The Pipers, who started the season last year 0-11, played the final with 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 12s on the Pipers team. "We knew they 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 blue-liners 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.

There was no flood after the first period but, watching the Raiders, you'd never have known there was just a brief timeout before starting the second. The Raiders came out flying, with Carson Krisko scoring the tying goal 3:17 into the second.

"We were more desperate to win this game (than in Monday's game) but we were just having a tough time scoring," said Oak Park head coach Joel Nedecky. "At the beginning of the year, it's always your goal to win but we have a lot of players in Grade 11 so it was somewhat of a bonus to get to the final this year. We have just seven Grade 12s so we do have a lot of guys back (next season)."

John Taylor head coach Justin Steeves said "it's been a long nine years" as he guided the team to the final in his first two years of coaching. He said his team lost by one goal in each final.

"It's been six years since we've won a playoff series until this year so for this to happen, is really special," Steeves said. "We had a good cycle of kids here, we brought the majority of them together the beginning of last year. It took us two months to win a game (0-11 start) so to go from there to here in 16-17 months is just unbelievable. Once they started to believe in themselves, it just really took off from there."

The Pipers won their third overall title for their school.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

For the first time in 22 years, the John Taylor Pipers' theme song is We are the Champions. "It's been six years since we've won a playoff series until this year so for this to happen, is really special," John Taylor head coach Justin Steeves said. "We had a good cycle of kids here, we brought the majority of them together the beginning of last year. It took us two months to win a game (0-11 start) so to go from there to here in 16-17 months is just unbelievable. Once they started to believe in themselves, it just really took off from there."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 D4

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