Kings win A crown
Morinville's senior hockey team captures provincial A crown
Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am
The Morinville Kings were crowned provincial A champions in their inaugural season of senior hockey.
The host team for the Hockey Alberta AA/A tournament at Ray McDonald Sports Centre defeated the Devon Barons 4-3 on Chris Budnick’s game winner with 5:56 left in regulation time in Sunday’s A final.
Jorey Mcrae and Chris Fraser assisted on Budnick’s second goal in three games at provincials on a rush after a faceoff in the Kings’ zone.
“Jorey was in the corner and he just threw the puck into the middle of the ice and I got a stick on it and kind of redirected it to the net and it went over the goalie’s shoulder,” said the rugged forward. “It was an awesome feeling.”
As the game wound down, and Devon pressing for the equalizer, Budnick said everybody on the Kings “was making a difference” in ensuring the lead stayed intact.
“At the end of the day we did our jobs and got it done.”
Visit www.stalbertgazette.com to view the team’s provincial banner picture.
Devon, the reigning North Central Hockey League champion, struck twice in the first period against netminder Cody Nicolay, who was parachuted in from the Rocky Rams in the NCHL as a replacement for backup Curtis Ronaldson after the former junior B St. Albert Merchant was unable to play in provincials because of work commitments.
Nicolay drew the start in the final after Jordan Panasiuk, the NCHL’s best netminder in the regular season in voting by the teams, tore his meniscus in Saturday’s 8-4 win over the Two Hills Longhorns, a wildcard entry from SaskAlta Hockey League. Panasiuk finished the game despite labouring in pain.
“He got run into about three times in the final three minutes of the game and the last time he got run he got up very, very slow,” said head coach Wayne Gatza.
The Kings rallied around a nervous Nicolay, who hadn’t stopped a puck since the end of January, with a provincial banner on the line.
“We wanted to give him a lot of support. Our game plan is always to keep shots to the outside and eliminate shots as much as we can and that’s what we did,” Budnick said. “He was a little shaky at the start of the game but we played the way we needed to just as if Panny was in net and he shut the door for us.”
In period two Shane O’Neill and Brayden Arcand pulled the Kings even with Devon.
“After that first period we came into the dressing room and said, ‘Boys, we’re OK. We’re right in this. A couple of bounces and it’s our game,’” said Gatza, the NCHL’s coach of the year. “Once we tied it up 2-2 everybody said let’s not lose this momentum. Everybody dig down and work a little bit harder and find that extra gear. It was the third game in three days and we’re a little tired but they found that extra gear.”
Dalen Paul of the Kings made it 3-2 at 2:13 of the third and Devon replied four minutes later.
“We came right back after that goal and had a couple of great scoring chances. We were doing what we needed to do and they were starting to wear down. We felt if we kept the puck down low we would have them,” Gatza said.
Ironically it was the grind line that came through in the clutch.
“They played their hearts out for us,” Gatza said “It was also Chris’ last shift of the game when he scored that goal. He wouldn’t go back onto the ice after that. He sat down on the bench and said, ‘Coach, send somebody out there for me the next time.’”
In league play Devon finished two points head of the Kings in the standings as both teams tied for the most wins at 13 apiece.
“I think it motivated us even more to play them,” Budnick said. “A lot of us know a lot of guys on that team so it was for bragging rights.”
In the A semifinal Arcand potted a pair and Wayne Gatza Jr., Kyle Beddows, Adam Tomkow, Aaron Baumgartner, O’Neill and Paul notched singles.
Period scores were 2-1 and 4-3 for the Kings, who were coming off a 9-4 setback in Friday’s AA/A quarter-final against the Okotoks Drillers, who competed in the Chinook senior AAA league this season.
“Everyone that was on the ice played a part in us winning that semifinal game. Our leaders, our go-to guys, put the puck in the net. Our checking line did what they were supposed to do. Our goaltending was amazing. Everyone was contributing,” Gatza said. “We did all the little things right in order to win and that allowed us to be in that gold medal game on Sunday.”
In the tournament opener O’Neill, Budnick, Tomkow and Paul scored against Okotoks, who went on to beat the Daysland Northstars 4-1 in the AA final. Panasiuk was in net as Okotoks posted period leads of 2-1 and 5-3.
“With them being an AAA team we kind of gave them too much respect but in the same sense I thought we did a really good job. We knew it was going to be tough to beat them and once it was over we just forgot about it and moved on and changed our focus to the A side. We wanted to get into that final on Sunday and go from there,” said Budnick, 27.