In a blaze of sticks and flying pucks at the MTS Iceplex on Wednesday, two teams skated into high school history as champions in their respective leagues.
Another high school title remained to be decided, as the Springfield Sabres forced a third game in their Winnipeg High School Hockey League final series.
The parade of champions began in the late afternoon, as the Sanford Sabres roared to a 6-1 victory over the Lord Selkirk Royals to claim the WHSHL's Free Press division crown. Then, while the Sabres were still whooping up the win on the Iceplex's north side, the Westwood Warriors were soaring to a 6-2 victory over the Lord Selkirk Royals to claim the title of Winnipeg Women's High School Hockey League B division champions.
It marks the first time the Westwood women have won a league championship and the team was more than a little elated, especially after they bounced back from a tough Game 1 loss to lock down the next two games in the best-of-three series. "Those girls battled hard," coach Kelly Hiebert said. "Can't say enough about them. They wanted this victory bad and they took it."
'Good things happen when you're playing hard. It feels unreal. It's just a great experience'
Meanwhile, as the Warriors hoisted their trophy and their fans flooded onto the Iceplex ice to celebrate the win, the Springfield Sabres were busy shooting out the lights in a 5-2 win over the Warren Wildcats to stretch their WHSHL C division battle to a third and final game. They will face each other this afternoon at the Iceplex to determine the division champions.
Sanford 6 Lord Selkirk 1
Of the two teams that won championships, the story was all about stunning third periods.
For instance, although the Sabres were heavily outshooting the Royals in the second game of their series, it looked like the Royals might push for a late comeback. The Royals were trailing 2-0 in the third, after a pair of goals from Sabres senior Fraser Mirrlees, when Selkirk forward Kale Ilchena ripped a puck into the Sabres net. That goal, with an assist to Daniel Fiebelkorn, put his team on the board 2-1.
Then the Sabres slammed back, hard. The Sanford squad scored a whopping four more goals as the third period ticked down; they would wind up outshooting the Royals 37-10 en route to the Free Press division crown.
"We just knew we had to push back strong, and found a way to find the back of the net in the third and got it done," Mirrlees said. "Good things happen when you're playing hard. It feels unreal. It's just a great experience."
Mirrlees completed his hat trick in the third. Talon Kelly was named the MVP for the Royals, while Chad Millar earned that nod for the Sabres.
Westwood 6 Lord Selkirk 2
In the women's championship, Warriors coach Hiebert could see how bad his team was hungering for the win.
He could see how badly they wanted it after they dropped the first game of their series against Selkirk Monday night. He could see it when they responded with a huge 5-0 win Tuesday to pull the momentum back. And in the third and final game at the Iceplex Wednesday night, Hiebert could see how they wanted it badly enough to battle through sprained wrists and bruised-up legs, on their way to pounding the Royals with 36 shots and winning the deciding game.
It all hinged on an explosive third period. The teams entered the final frame tied at one apiece, on the back of a first-period marker from the Royals' Natalie Bennett and a second-period reply from Westwood's Lauren Fulham. And that's when the Warriors surged forward, scoring five goals in a little more than 10 minutes after the third period began. That included two from Grade 9 dynamo Alicia Prociuk, who finished with four points and was named the team MVP.
"It's pretty awesome," Prociuk said after her team celebrated their win all the way to the Iceplex dressing room. "It means everything for us to come back like that. We kind of just put everything out there that we had. It was all or nothing."
Credit to the Royals: they didn't fold after the Westwood onslaught, and Rochelle Ryder potted their second goal in the dying minutes of the third period.