The Revelstoke Bantam Grizzlies capped off an incredible season by winning a provincial title on home ice on Thursday.
“It’s the most amazing feeling of my life,” exclaimed Grady Powell, who scored what turned out to the be the game-winning goal in Revelstoke’s 3-2 win over Vanderhoof at the Forum.
Revelstoke hosted the Tier 4 Bantam Provincial Championships for the first time since 2009; it was also the last time a minor hockey team from here won a provincial title.
The squad was mostly made up of Revelstoke players, but also included four players from Golden and two from Nakusp. Going into the tournament, the team of 2002- and 2003-born players were Okanagan champions and had lost one game all season. But sports can be fickle and despite that stellar record, one loss could have meant the end of their championship dreams.
In the opening game on Monday they defeated Mission 7-0 and that night they beat Creston 12-5. Their next two games were closer — on Tuesday they beat Vanderhoof 4-1 and on Wednesday they defeated Whistler by the same score. They completed the round-robin portion of the tournament Thursday afternoon with a 7-1 win over Clearwater.
That set them up for a rematch against Vanderhoof in the finals only a few hours later.
The teams were greeted by a huge crowd that packed the Forum, filling both sides of the stands.
Revelstoke opened the scoring with just over six minutes left in the first when David Kline scored on a scramble in front. Vanderhoof scored just over a minute later to tie the game heading into the first intermission.
Captain Sammy Lerose gave Revelstoke the lead 4:13 into the second period when Kline set him up on a 2-on-1. Revelstoke continued to press and had a great chance to extend their lead with a lengthy 5-on-3 power play midway through the second but Vanderhoof was able to kill it off.
The visitors then took the momentum for the rest of the period but Izzy Palumbo stood strong in the Revelstoke net, stopping a pair of breakaways to keep her team in the lead at the end of the second period.
Grady Powell extended Revelstoke’s lead 2:16 into the third when he picked up a puck in the offensive zone and fired a wrist shot that hit the Vanderhoof goalie’s blocker and rolled into the net.
“Michael (Miertsch) won it off the wall and I just tried to walk out. I saw an open spot, had my head up, shot and it got lucky to roll over the blocker and go in the net,” Powell said. “I was so excited. I saw it just hit his blocker and roll up in the air and I was hoping it would drop down in the net.”
Afterwards, Revelstoke’s defense stood strong to hold back the Vanderhoof attack. They kept their two-goal lead for more than 10 minutes, when Joshua Van Der Giessen scored for Vanderhoof with seven minutes left to make it a one-goal game.
The visitors continued to push and had several great chances in the final minute but Revelstoke, backstopped by Palumbo, held them off for a 3-2 win.
“It was quite the game, especially in the last minute it was pretty scary and I got very nervous,” said Palumbo, part of the team’s Golden contingent. “Then, with three seconds left, the puck was behind the net, everyone jumped on the ice and it was the happiest moment ever.”
Lerose said it was an “awesome feeling” to win on home ice. “I was really nervous. I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach, but we came out, worked hard and we got it.”
Coach Steve Bull said he was really proud of the team and the way they played all season.
“We’ve been a confident group, we’ve had lots of success,” he said. “We’re really well rounded. We don’t have a bunch of superstars but we’re a good, hard working group of kids. We were confident coming in and we’re ecstatic for them to be able to pull it out.”