With their screaming fans behind them, in a foreign rink, the Smithers Steelheads finally hoisted the Coy Cup high over their heads in a stunning 3-1 victory over the Kitimat Ice Demons.
The Williams Lake Stampeders settled for a third-place finish in the tournament — dropping a heartbreaker in the semifinal Friday, 3-1, to the Ice Demons, prior to Saturday’s final.
The story of the year, and the story of the tournament, however, was the Steelheads.
Coming off its most successful regular season in franchise history, the Steelheads will also be adding another championship banner to the Smithers Civic Center rafters after travelling to the Tamitik Arena in Kitimat for the five-day tournament.
It was the team’s first senior men’s ‘AA’ provincial hockey championship in the nine-year-old franchise’s existence.
“Coming here to play top notch hockey and we never lost a game … it’s fantastic,” said Steelheads head coach Tom DeVries. “The guys were excited all week.
“It’s not easy to win here. When you get to the final games, it’s just not easy. Even when we’re ahead 3-0, and they score one, panic starts to come into your mind.
“They’ve [Smithers] always had a good team but never won, so it’s pretty exciting for them.”
The Steelheads finished the regular season with a perfect 18-0 record.
They then continued on to compete in the post season with a 24-1 record after winning the SMP Cup for the first time — the Central Interior Hockey League’s playoff trophy.
That momentum carried the team to Kitimat where, after three hard-fought periods of hockey, they came out on top as champions.
“This is my fourth year on the team, and we finally got the monkey off our back,” said player Randell Groot. “We’ve been exited in the second round of the playoffs every time. This year, you know we handily went through with Terrace and then had a good three-game series against Williams Lake, so that gave us confidence.
“The playoffs really meant nothing. Everyone’s on the same level come day one here and we were fortunate enough to get up to a first, convincing win over Quesnel and we took it from there. We came back and showed some character and beat Kitimat.
“We got the by and then we did it again here and with a 3-1 win I think we did it pretty convincingly.”