The goal gave the Vipers their third consecutive Fred Page Cup and left the Kings searching for answers once again.
There was immediate disappointment when the season ended prematurely. The Kings had high expectations coming into this season. Their goal was to not only win their first Fred Page Cup, but also travel to Camrose for the 2011 RBC Cup. You could argue the majority of the BCHL had the same goal back in early September. Almost every team dreams of finishing on top come May. Was Powell River in a better position than quite a few teams? Yes they were, but it doesn’t mean the season was a loss or a failure by any stretch. This year’s group had plenty to celebrate.
The season started off with a 3-0 win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on September10th. A few highlights in particular ended up fore shadowing a few individual and team performances throughout the season. Mike Garteig made 20 saves in game one for his first of seven shutouts on the season. Garteig's mark this year tied a five year old BCHL record held by Brad Thiessen. The Kings became known as a nearly air tight team defensively as they set a new BCHL goals against mark, Garteig set a new goals against average record and he teamed up with Sean Maguire to share the team award for lowest goals against average in the BCHL.
Chad Niddery and Matt Garbowsky both had one goal and three points in the first win of the season. A glimpse into what was to become a dynamic duo as Niddery went on to finish with 86 points,which was fourth best in the BCHL, and Matt Garbowsky lead the league in scoring with 44 tallies. Speaking of Garbowsky a story shared at the team banquet shows the type of person he is on and off the ice.
Garbowsky told Kent Lewis that one of his goals this season was to score 45 goals. He had that opportunity on the final day of the regular season in Port Alberni. Facing an empty net and leading 3-1 late in the third period, Garbowsky passed up scoring number 45 and elected to set up Jason Yee's first goal of the season, and first in over 80 games dating back to November of 2009. That goal was the most celebrated empty netter I've seen in my broadcast career and goes to show you how special this team was.
The Kings would go on from the season opener to set more records and continue to add on more W's in the win column. The team played just like that, a team, and were getting staggering results. By Christmas, Powell River had a double digit point lead for first place in their conference and a sizeable lead for first place in the BCHL. By the winter break the Kings hadn't faced any real significant adversity except a few key injuries to their forwards. The Kings still managed to pick up wins during that stretch and headed into the Christmas break as the number one ranked team in the country.
There were a couple of hiccups after the break as the Kings lost to Malmo in their New Year's Eve tilt at the Hap Parker Arena. However that night will be remembered for the atmosphere and the post game celebrations with both teams, fans and parents at a speical dinner and dance. Their first league game in the new year was a poor effort as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Langley Chiefs over on the Mainland.
The team returned to form as they won the next nine of eleven games and finished the first month of of 2011 with a 9-3 record. January was busy as the Kings played five games in seven days, including a four game interior road trip. One of the biggest highlights of January was a wild 7-6 come from behind double overtime win against Cowichan Valley. The Kings scored twice with the goalie pulled with under two minutes left in regulation and then won it in the second overtime on a rocket by Matt Garbowsky. Not a coaches dream but one of the most talked about games for sure by the fans. By the end of January the Kings had 38 wins and were sitting pretty at the top of the BCHL. However that doesn't mean February didn't have it's fair share of excitement.
Of note, the Kings swept their three game Mainland road trip to start the month, and in doing so, Kent Lewis recorded his 500th win as a Head Coach-GM in the BCHL. Also on that swing, Mike Garteig tied the BCHL shuout record with a 3-0 win in Surrey for his seventh shutout of the season. Powell River would finish the last month of the regular season with an 8-1 record, with six of the wins coming on the road. The regular season was over and the Kings had plenty of accomplishments.
- Franchise record in wins with 46, surpassing the orginal mark of 44 set in 1993-1994.
- Franchise record in points with 97, clipping the total of 89 also set in '93-94.
- Franchise record in road wins with 21.
- BCHL goals against record of 115. Besting the previous season's total of 119 set by the Vernon Vipers.
- BCHL goals against average record set by Mike Garteig at 1.69, passing Vernon's Blake Voth's 1.79 from 2009-10.
As you might expect, there was plenty of excitement going into the playoffs come March. The Kings would get a first round bye and in turn have a full 17 days off from the end of the regular season to the beginning of round two on March 8th.
Powell River would meet Victoria in the Coastal Conference semi-final and this series didn't dissappoint. The series had all the recipies for a classic. The drama, makings of an early upset, and a comeback all made for one great seven game battle.
The Kings did start out as expected with a 6-2 game one win over the Grizz but the story did not follow script after that. Victoria would win the next three games including back to back overtime wins in games two and three. Evan Richardson's OT winner in game two seemed to turn the tide in the series. The Grizzlies held strong at home, winning games three and four at the Bear Mountain Arena. That set up a must win game five at home and it was a game no one will soon forget.
Powell River had a 2-1 third period lead in front of a loud home crowd and looked like they would force a game six in Victoria. However, Dustin Johnson had plans of his own scoring with just one minute and one second left to force overtime. I'm sure many fans and even some players thought... here we go again.
Panic was subsided when Jon Jutzi played hero in the first overtime session, taking a drop pass from Chad Niddery and ending the game at 11:11 (make a wish anyone?) of the first overtime period. The emotional win seemed to wake up the Kings as they turned in two text book 4-1 wins in game six and seven to complete the comeback. Game seven was closer than the 4-1 outcome reads, as it was 2-1 for the Kings with just minutes remaining and Victoria pressing. The Kings capitalized on a rare mistake by Victoria goalie Matt Ginn when he misplayed the puck to Carter Shinkaruk who made no mistake. Dan Schuler finished off a brilliant night with an empty netter to cmplete his hat-trick performance.
Powell River lived to play another day.
The Confernce Final pitted the Kings against the Surrey Eagles who came in riding high as they were 8-2 through two playoff rounds. The Eagles swept Coquitlam in round one and downed Langley in round two in six games. This series started similar to the previous one with Victoria. The Kings won game one by a count of 4-2 but yet again stumbled in game two, losing 2-1 in overtime. Like the Victoria series, the Kings were going on the road with an unwanted split at home. Throughout the regular season and the playoffs the road had been good to the Kings, and that was no different in Surrey. Powell River won game three 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 was a pivotal game in the series and it was a very entertaining game that didn't end until 11:45pm. That's when Steven Schmidt scored in triple overtime to give the Kings a 3-1 lead in the series and a chance to close it out on home ice. It was an opportunity for the taking, but the Eagles had other plans.
Surrey would summon their best performance of the series and take game five 3-1 with only 9 forwards and five defensemen. A lesson for the Kings not to look ahead before the task at hand was accomplished. Powell River would bounce back and win in convincing fashion, 4-1 in game six and advance to their third straight Fred Page Cup. A rematch with the two time defending national champion Vernon Vipers.
The Kings would, as you well know, end up losing the Fred Page Cup in four games. All four of the games very close and could have gone either way. Powell River had an opportunity to win each of the four games, including the final two in Vernon. However, unlike the previous two series, the Kings could not find a bounce or recover from a Vernon chance. It seemed like the Vipers scored on almost every chance they had. That's how championship teams win in a tight series such as this one.
The Kings can't be faulted for a lack of effort or will to win. If you looked at the players faces after game four, you knew they did every thing they could. There were a few things that dogged the Kings in the finals. The power-play struggled in the first two games, not scoring in the series until game three. Also the scoring dried up at the most inopportune time. In the first two games the Kings only scored once on 46 shots and went down 0-2 heading to the Interior. They managed to score 7 goals in the two games in Vernon, but it wasn't enough to get a road win as the Vipers swept the series in four straight.
Congrats to the Vernon Vipers for capturing yet another Fred Page Cup and good luck to them as the BCHL representatives in the upcoming Doyle Cup versus the Spruce Grove Saints from the AJHL.