Submitted by Michael Tollis, Grand Forks Minor Hockey
The wild ride that was the Grand Forks Bantam Bruins season came to a spectacular and cardiac arrest-inducing conclusion this past weekend in Beaver Valley. The Bruins finished the regular season sitting in second place behind the powerhouse Nakusp Falcons, which gave them the advantage of playing the bottom three teams in the playoff round robin.
Game one was against the Spokane Jr. Chiefs in a game that started close, but ended in a blowout. The most impressive part of the 14-2 outcome was the fact that the Bruins had 12 different goal-scorers, including a goal from “Capital D” Dalien Becher, his first of the season, on a ripper of a wrist shot. One down, four to go.
Game two was against a sixth-place Castlegar Rebels squad that didn’t have a chance. The Bruins were coming together and looking dangerous with emotional leader Jack “Jacko” Jones netting a hat trick, and Captain Zak “Attack” Thomas burying two. The most crowd-electrifying goal of the game though had to go to Amelia “Meels on Wheels” Driedger, who put the biscuit in the basket for her first of the season, which turned out to be the game winner, simultaneously concluding the drive to have every member of the 20-player roster score at least once. 10-1 final, 3 to go.
Game three was a rivalry game versus Trail 1, and the performance was a testament to how far the Bruins had come this season. The passing was exceptional, the five-player defensive unit was impenetrable, and when Trail got frustrated and chippy, the discipline was Zen-like. “Big Goal” Cole Savitskoff came through with his biggest tally of the year making it 1-0, and Brendan “B” Vanderlee performed highway robbery on Trail’s leading goal-scorer who was staring at a yawning cage when B’s paddle and glove came out of nowhere to deny what was to be a sure goal. 2-0 Bruins, into the semis.
There was no shortage of drama on Sunday when the coaches found out the Michael “Motorcycle” Driedger had suffered a broken bone in his hand on Saturday, Cam “Camo” Bryant was in the hospital with a bone infection, and “Magic” Marcus Carney was erupting from both ends with a nasty flu. Mucus Marcus came to watch the semi-final, and once cleared by doctors (and his Mommy), Mike “Tyson” Driedger taped up his hand and took to the ice for the semi-final against another rival, Trail 2. The game was a battle, back and forth down the ice, and with just a one-goal lead, the newly formed trio of “Papa Bear” Morgan Cairns, “Smiling” Aiden Burch, and “Honest Abe” Lincoln Faulkner went to work offensively. Burch was smiling from ear to ear after completing a tic-tac-toe from Cairns and Faulkner followed that up with an “Are you kidding me?” second goal that sent his onesie-wearing father off the rails, again assisted by Cairns. Jacko Jones buried another, after a beauty skate and passing play set up by Samuel “The Show” Sjoden, and the team’s beating heart, Joaquin Mattick sealed the deal with a power play marker deep in the third. 5-1 Bruins, Trail gets sent home, one game to go.
The Nakusp Falcons destroyed the Bruins once and overcame a deficit to beat the Bruins a second time in the regular season. They also dominated the league this year, only allowing 15 goals against in 12 games, and they were far and away the top team. But these Bruins were warriors, epitomized by the likes of Mikey “Broken Hand” taping up again, and Immodium Marcus dressing for the final game of the season, despite his face being the colour of the Bruins’ white jerseys. The Falcons took it to the Bruins early, but “B” Vanderlee was equal to the task. He was aided greatly by a defense core willing to sacrifice the body to prevent shots on goal. Riley “Where’s my stick?” Menzies took more than a few clappers off the shins, Wyatt “Why dog?” Cairns took his blocking performance to new heights, and as usual, assistant captain, and all-round great human being, Gabby Campbell, took multiple bruises for the team.
Deep into the second period, it was still deadlocked at zero when the Grand Forks faithful witnessed a thing of beauty. Marcus Carney, sick as a dog, back-checked hard to steal the puck from a Nakusp skater. Carney pushed the puck to his backhand, just out of reach of the Nakusp stick, then smoothly slid the puck through the same players skates at the blueline before stopping up and toe-dragging around him, effectively twisting his ankles and sending him crashing to the ice. The teenaged Bruins squealed at the ankle-breaking move, the coaches’ eyes widened, and the parents rose to their feet as Magic Marcus ripped an absolute laser beam into the top corner. 1-0. After emotional speeches from the coaches between the 2nd and 3rd periods, and a cheer of “1-2-3- CAM!” invoking hospitalized Camo Bryant to drive the team, the Bruins went out in the third to work for their prize.
Josh “The Giant” Bryant fit in flawlessly on defence and joined in the shot-blocking brigade to hold off the Falcons. Will “The Thrill” Kelly in goal was outstanding, saving shot after shot and smothering loose pucks. Even “Stormin’” Corbin Savitskoff laid out to block shots, leaving it all on the ice. As the seconds ticked away, and parents sounded horns and rang cowbells, chance after chance was cleared from the Bruins goal, some right off the goal line, until finally, the buzzer sounded and pandemonium erupted! Gloves and sticks and helmets were tossed into the air, coaches hugged, and fans screamed. They had done it, the Bantam Bruins had won the banner, and claimed forever the 2020 League Championship.