Improbable Vikes win BCIHL Championship

Nathan Crosby, Sports Editor  Ω

The buzz around the Kamloops Memorial Arena leading up to the provincial collegiate championship was all about who of the three favourites would win it all.

Would it be the two-time consecutive defending champs from SFU? Would it be the physical second-place Okanagan College Coyotes? Or would it be the hometown TRU WolfPack looking for redemption from coming so close the last two years?

Those were the top three seeds.

No one said a peep about Victoria.

“That’s exactly where we wanted to be,” Victoria head coach Harry Schamhart said.

After the championship overtime thriller on Mar. 18, the Vikes were the only team left standing, defeating SFU 4-3 mere seconds into overtime.

Victoria’s run started by winning two of their three round robin games by shoot out. They entered the tournament as the fourth seed and finished the regular season with more losses than wins. In their second game of the qualifying rounds, they lost six-foot-three, 225-pound forward Cam McWilliam to a broken arm.

Still, no team could stop the Vikes from claiming their third BCIHL title in six years.

“The boys have played unbelievable hockey for the last three weeks and I’m just so happy it paid off for us,” Vikes goalie Jason Margolus said.

Five minutes into the second period of the championship game, a speeding Christopher Hoe of SFU came barrelling down the slot and pulled a Pavel Datsyuk-like one-hander on Margolus. The Vikes goaltender sprawled himself out and made a crucial save that inspired a Victoria comeback, being down 2-0 at that point.

“Jason stepped up beyond what anybody thought he could do,” coach Schamhart said.

“Here’s a goalie that’s been out of hockey for a few years, we ran into some injuries and luckily enough he was going to the University of Victoria and we got him to come back out and look what he did in this tournament.”

Margolus became one of the most lovable players of the tournament with his brilliant performances twice against SFU and Okanagan College. He was money in the shoot out and made the saves when it mattered.

His parents flew in from Vancouver at the beginning of the tournament and were full of energy after four days of hard-fought hockey. They cheered proudly and waved signs saying “Mar-goal-less.” Once their son picked up his gold medal, he screamed into the microphone, “I love you mom.”

It was Dustin Taylor, a forward from Airdrie, Alta., who finished off SFU moments into overtime.

He broke fast down the ice after the SFU defence bobbled the puck and the fans in Memorial Arena didn’t have enough time to warm their hands before jumping up in jubilation.

“Words can’t describe it. It feels unreal, I don’t know what else to say,” Taylor said with a huge smile on his face after finishing the game with two goals and one assist. Taylor was also part of the Victoria penalty kill that helped jolt the Vikes offence after killing an important SFU power play in the second period.

It was a quiet SFU dressing room following the loss. Most players hadn’t removed their equipment 20 minutes after receiving their silver medals.

“Our guys made mistakes that cost us goals,” SFU head coach Mark Coletta said.

“I think we won the first period, they won the second period, and the third period was pretty tight.”

SFU went up 2-0 in the first period with goals from Bill Smith and Todd Fletcher and the Vikes got a wakeup call during the first intermission.

“We told the boys there are no super stars on this team, everybody on the ice has a job and they have to perform that job and nobody can quit,” coach Schamhart said.

The Vikes’ power play, which was ranked second-last during the regular season, scored one minute and 16 seconds into the second period. SFU responded with Colton Graf one-timing a saucer pass from Christopher Hoe to go up 3-1.

Victoria started to aggressively challenge SFU stalwart goalie Graeme Gordan and with 26 seconds left in the period, the Vikes’ Brent Sutherland scored, bringing his team within one.

Four minutes into the third, the Vikes caught SFU on an odd-man rush and captain Doug Evans put home a pass from Dustin Taylor to tie the game.

It went back and forth for the rest of the period but 60 minutes solved nothing.

There was a brief delay when the tournament officials had to clarify to the teams what overtime rules were to be used. There would be no flood until after a 10-minute overtime.

No flood was needed at all.

Taylor’s instant goal had the Victoria bench jumping up and down hysterically in celebration. After pictures and passing the trophy around, the team packed up and left. They had to make it back to Vancouver that night to catch the ferry.

It would be a ferry ride the gentlemen from Victoria would never forget.