By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
A broken play resulted in a quick overtime goal that won the Dundas Real McCoy’s their first Allan Cup national hockey championship 3-2 over Clarenville Caribous in a packed J.L. Grightmire Arena, Saturday.
It was Randy Rowe’s only goal of the tournament for Dundas – but it came just at the right time.
“We had a face-off plan. It actually didn’t work, which turned out to be better,” Rowe said Saturday night, as the McCoys celebrated their national championship with friends and family on the Grightmire ice.
Off that broken play, Rowe ended up with the puck and fired it at the net – guarded by stingy Jason Churchill, who gave snipers from Brantford, Kenora, and Bentley fits all week.
Rowe said most of his shots had been blocked by the Newfoundland team’s tenacious defenders all evening, but this time the way was suddenly clear – and Dundas forward Greg Stewart provided the screen to block Churchill’s view.
The puck was in – with about six minutes left in sudden death overtime. Dundas Real McCoys were the champions.
“I don’t believe it,” yelled Stan Nowak, who has been a regular at McCoys games for 14 years.
“I don’t believe it either, Stan,” yelled his friend, John Mills, who has supported the McCoys since before they hit the ice for the first time, and has been named fan of the year with an award named after the late George Hollinger. “After all these years, it’s a sweet day.”
By far the two best teams over the five-day tournament, Clarenville and Dundas played pretty evenly for much of the first period – exchanging near misses and scoring chances that were handled by Mike Mole for Dundas, who led all Allan Cup goalies with a 1.64 goals against average and 132 saves in four wins, and Churchill, who was right behind Mole with 126 saves and a 1.89 GAA.
Mole was named tournament Most Valuable Player after Saturday’s game.
With three minutes left in the first period, Dundas defenceman Kevin Bolibruck fired a point shot to the Caribous’ net. Scott Mifsud ended up with the puck, and Darryl Smith yelled at him to shoot, then banged in a rebound for the first goal of the game. It was Smith’s first goal of the tournament.
Dundas was up 1-0 in what looked like a duel of ace goalies.
Known for scoring quick goals in response to opponents ‘ points, Clarenville didn’t get one in until four minutes into the second period. But they made the most of an opportunity.
Back-to-back Dundas penalties gave the Caribous a five on three advantage and Allan Cup tournament leading scorer Cam Fergus put the first puck past Mole to tie the game at one goal each.
With 2:53 left to play in the period, Darryl Smith finished up a pretty passing play from Cam Watson and Scott Mifsud to give Dundas back the lead – and Smith his second goal of the game, and second goal of the tournament.
One fan quickly coined the name “Valley City Smitty” in honour of the man who – to that point – had provided Dundas’ offence.
That lead lasted until 8:45 left in the third period, when Cam Fergus scored his second power play goal of the game to tie the match back up.
After several chances for both teams, hard battles for the puck, and repeated game-saving plays by both goalies, the Allan Cup championship headed an overtime that will go down in Dundas and J.L. Grightmire Arena history.
“All I am is satisfied,” said Real McCoys general manager Don Robertson. “We built this team for this building. If we hadn’t had success, it would mean we made a mistake – and we didn’t think we did.”
After the game, Darryl Smith said this Allan Cup championship season was his third with the team.
“It seems like a long time coming,” Smith said. “Don Robertson put a good team together this year. Everybody stood up at the right time. We stepped up more than we did in the regular season.”
For Dundas defenceman Jay McKee, who played more than 800 games in the NHL, the Allan Cup championship win might mark the end of his playing career.
“It feels like it’s a professional league,” McKee said. “This might be the last game I play at an organized level. I felt a little emotion… I wanted to win.”
McKee said the smaller, skilled forwards of Clarenville provide challenges for those defending against them – particularly when they picked up extra energy.
“I think they gained some momentum off some penalties we took,” McKee said.
In a career filled with a variety of achievements, the Allan Cup with Dundas will have a special place for the veteran NHL player. He said it’s as good a group of people he’s ever played with.
“The best part about hockey is the guys in the locker room…to be able to win any championship game, it doesn’t matter what level,” McKee said. “You play for the guys next to you.”