The Yorkton Bantam UCT Terriers ventured into hostile territory on Thursday, March 27 as they took a one-game-to-none lead into Melfort's Northern Lights Palace thanks to Tuesday March 25th's 5-1 win in Yorkton.
The Terriers were looking to sweep the North Division champion Northeast Wolfpack in the SBAAHL playoff finals and clinch a spot in the 2014 Western Canadian Bantam 'AAA' Championships, but first they had to contend with a boisterous enemy crowd that went to such lengths as to put gravel under the Yorkton bench in an attempt to intimidate the Bantam Terriers.
However it didn't intimidate them. Instead it fired them up as Yorkton grabbed a quick 1-0 lead on Carson Welke's first of the game and seventh of the playoffs just 2:18 into the game as Welke walked around a Wolfpack defenceman, outwaited Northeast netminder Hunter Arps and buried the puck deep into the back of the net for a 1-0 Terrier lead.
Midway through the period Yorkton upped their lead to two. Cody Dubas' point blast was stopped by Arps, however McKenzie Welke jumped all over the rebound, firing it past the sprawled out Wolfpack netminder to make it 2-0 Yorkton.
Carson Welke gave Yorkton a three goal lead heading into the first intermission via a four-on-three powerplay goal.
It appeared as if Northeast would escape the second period down just three, however that was not to be as Carson Welke completed his hattrick bid with just over four minutes remaining in the period when his wrap around shot just trickled over the goal-line for a 4-0 Terriers lead after 40 minutes.
The Terriers would add four more goals in a dominant third period, two by Carson Miller and one each by Keanan Sperling and Reid Perepeluk while the Wolfpack could muster just one goal by Tyson Meyers. Final score: Yorkton eight, Northeast one.
Terriers netminder Alex Geddes picked up the win, his eighth of the playoffs, turning aside 25 of 26 shots while Arps suffered the loss stopping 45 of 53 shots.
"There was not a lot of drama to the final few minutes," said UCT Terriers head coach Graham Garrett following the championship clinching 8-1 victory, adding, "We played another near perfect hockey game and the result showed it."
That they did. The UCT Terriers completely dominated the Northeast Wolfpack for an entire 60 minutes and silenced a crowd that, at the start, was so loud that players were unable to hear the whistle blow.
But while all the UCT Terriers rose to the occasion, one line in particular, the 'Langenburg Line' of the Welke brothers and Luke Schappert, shone brighter than the rest, not just in the final game, but all playoff long. "That line has been unstoppable," offered the Bantam Terriers bench boss. "They kind of lead us and the other lines."
It's rare when a team has one set of twins that it can lean on if it needs some sort of spark.
It's even rarer for a team to have two. However, that is exactly what the UCT Terriers have in the form of the Welke brothers Carson and McKenzie, as well as the Taphorn brothers Keenan and Kaeden.
The Welke brothers have combined for 58 goals and 68 assists in 30 regular season games while the Taphorn twins in their first Bantam 'AA' season combined for 40 goals and 56 assists in the regular season.
Playoffs wise the Taphorn production fell off slightly with the two combining for just six goals and nine assists over nine games; something that is expected when the top teams in the league identify a team's top line and targets it.
The Welke brothers, meanwhile, feasted on their playoff opponents, combining for 20 goals and 18 assists in nine games to lead the Bantam Terriers to their first league and Provincial title in 32 years.
But how does it feel for these twin brothers to win a championship that has eluded Yorkton for so long? "It's great," said first born Carson. "I love playing with him. He's a great player and we have a lot of chemistry obviously with being (twin) brothers. It's great."
McKenzie echoed his older (by about a minute, according to McKenzie) brothers comment, saying, "It really is great. We've played together all the time, ever since we started and winning this championship has been a goal of ours since the beginning of the year so it's been great."
Eyes set on Westerns
The 8-1 win means that not only are the Yorkton Bantam UCT Terriers SBAAHL playoff and provincial champions for the first time since 1982, but that they will also be going to Kelowna, BC, to take part in the 2014 Western Canadian Bantam 'AAA' Championships from April third to the sixth.
Joining the Terriers will be the Manitoba representative Winnipeg Monarchs (31-1, 8-0 playoffs), the Alberta champion Lloydminster Heat (31-1-1, 10-1 playoffs), host Kelowna Rockets (28-23-3) and the BC champion North Shore Winter Club (63-4-2).
But while the UCT Terriers have been top dogs most of, if not the entire 2013-14 SBAAHL season, Garrett is also fully aware that his team is now officially the underdogs in Kelowna. "We're going in as underdogs, people don't give Saskatchewan an opportunity here (Westerns), but this is a really skilled group of kids with a lot of character and we're going out there to do more than just show up. We're going out there to compete," offered Garrett before acknowledging that the teams that Yorkton will face will be of a different calibre than what the SBAAHL offers. "These are city teams that have a lot of talent to pick from. They'll basically be all second year guys while we're kind of half and half. They are there to win a championship.
"We're just a stepping stone for them in their minds. We have to make sure that when the final buzzer goes that they know they were in a hockey game and that they don't just necessarily get to have an easy win."