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Southeast Prairie Thunder finally bring Allan Cup home to Steinbach

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LLOYDMINSTER, Sask. -- It turns out the fourth time's a charm for the Southeast Prairie Thunder.

The Steinbach, Man., team defeated the Rosetown Redwings 4-1 Saturday night to win the Allan Cup at the Centennial Civic Arena.

The victory over the Saskatchewan-based team marked the first ever national senior AAA hockey championship for the Prairie Thunder after making an appearance in each of the last four tournaments -- including a loss in double overtime at home in 2009.

"We got what we came for," said winger Tim Plett, a member of each of the last four Prairie Thunder squads. "Coming into this tournament I knew we had a strong team here.

"It's not a team like we've brought here before."

Prairie Thunder forward Brad Purdie netted the winning goal 8:48 into the third after taking a drop pass from Devon Leblanc and squeaking a shot under the armpit of Redwings goaltender Jeff Harvey.

Anders Strome added an insurance marker and Leblanc -- the tournament MVP -- iced the win with an empty-netter with 1:52 remaining.

While the championship was a great feeling for those, like Plett, who've endured three years of Allan Cup heartache, it was also gratifying to one of the team's rookies.

Terry Yake, a 43-year-old with 403 games of NHL experience with Hartford, St. Louis, Toronto and Washington, was all smiles after hoisting the trophy.

"I've had two minor-league championships -- one in the American Hockey League, one in the International League -- and a championship over in Switzerland," said Yake. "But I'll tell you what, they never get old no matter what level you're at.

"Considering this is about as good of hockey as you can play -- senior hockey in Canada -- it still feels great."

Plett got the Prairie Thunder on the board 8:47 into the opening period as he accepted a stretch pass from defenceman Ryan Smith at the Redwings' blue-line, cut in and beat Harvey through the legs.

From there on, however, the Redwings carried the play, outshooting their opponents 12-7 in the first.

That pressure continued in the second as Jared Jagow just missed a cross-crease pass from Brent Twordik and then Danny Williams wasn't able to convert during a goal-mouth scramble.

All the chances finally paid off when J.J. Hunter one-timed a pass from Carter Smith by Justin Harris at 13:14 to tie the score. It was one of 14 shots the Redwings mustered in the period.

The Redwings outshot the Prairie Thunder 33-29 overall.

"Our worst two periods of the whole tournament were the first and second," said Jamie Leach, the Prairie Thunder's first-year head coach. "We kept reassuring our guys to get back to the game plan."

Minutes after Purdie scored the go-ahead marker, Hunter had a chance to tie the game on a wraparound. Harris got his glove on it at the last opportunity as he lunged across the net.

"Credit to them," said Hunter. "They have a good team and they have a lot of experience over there. But it still stings when you're that close."

The game was marred by a scary incident when Hunter checked Prairie Thunder defenceman Dale Butland in the second period.

The back of Butland's head whacked against the top of the boards as he twisted and fell, halting play 2:38 into the period. Butland was taken off on a stretcher, but was conscious. He managed to return and finish the game though.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2012 C4

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