The Yorkton Terriers led the Royal Bank Cup final only once, but it was when it mattered most — overtime.
A goal by Derek Falloon—also hero in a round robin overtime to advance the Terriers into the playoffs—15:01 into the first overtime frame propelled the Terriers to their first national title in five visits to the RBC.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Falloon, who said the goal was easily the biggest of his Junior career.
Falloon said when the puck came his way he just sort of shoved it toward the Canadian goalie and it went between the netminder’s pads.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said after the game.
Terrier Captain, and 20-year-old rearguard Devon McMullen said “never in the world” could he have imagined the feeling when the referee motioned the winning goal. “Unbelievable is all I can say.”
Terrier general manager Don Chesney has played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, was twice Coach of the Year, but his first national crown was Sunday.
“This is like winning the Stanley Cup for Don Chesney,” he said.
Chesney said the win was one which he knew would reverberate back to Yorkton, and fans here.
“I think (the reaction), it’s going to be unbelievable,” he said. “And, to win it like we did, well it was almost a storybook finish.”
Terrier coach Trent Cassan said once the game went to overtime there was some added confidence for the team.
“In the playoffs in overtime we’ve played pretty well, (the team was 8-2 in extra time games),” said Cassan.
So did Cassan have any special words before the start of OT?
“The same thing as always, play without fear,” he said.
As for Falloon’s goal, it was his second act of overtime heroics in the RBC tournament, having scored the extra frame winner in Game 4 of the round robin, a must-win game against Dauphin.
“Both goals, I don’t know if they made the back of the net,” said Cassan with a smile.
Cassan said it was great to see the 20-year-old Falloon have big goals, especially after he missed most of the Western Canada Cup in his native Manitoba with an injury.
The Canadians started scoring in the final on a goal by Anthony McVeigh 9:26 in.
Daylan Gatzke responded tying the game at 15:07.
The game went to the second period knotted 1-1.
The second period went Carleton Place’s way as Stephen Baylis at 4:12 and Andy Sturtz at 10:34 gave the eastern team a 3-1 lead.
“You’ve got to give them (Carleton Place) credit,” said McMullen. “They didn’t allow us any momentum throughout the game.”
In the third, the time started to wear off the clock on the Terriers, and when Dylan Johnson was tagged for an interference penalty at 14:05, a comeback looked unlikely.
But the Terriers killed the penalty, and then at 17:13 Tanner Lischynsky gave the Terriers life with Yorkton’s second goal of the final.
Eight seconds later, Terriers fans at Kal Tire Place in Vernon were still celebrating the second goal when Dylan Johnson tied the game, which would eventually push the game to overtime, and set up Falloon to become a Terrier legend.
Johnson’s goal was of course huge, and a moment of redemption for the big forward.
“There aren’t even words to describe it … I was hyped to get that goal … The feeling is surreal,” he said, adding it was made bigger by the fact he had taken what he termed “a stupid penalty,” only a couple of minutes earlier, eating away valuable time as the Terriers worked to kill off the man advantage.
The goal was a highlight to arguably the best hockey of Johnson’s season at the RBC.
“I really needed to step up my game. It’s a national championship,” he said, adding he was keenly aware this was the last chance for a number of key 20-year-old Terriers, and he wanted to be a part of extending the season as far as possible. “I wanted to put everything on the line for them.”
As for the dramatic comeback late, Johnson said “we still believed,” and once they got one the team had a feeling on the bench.
Cassan said the Terriers realized going into the third it was the last time they would be on the ice as a team, and the team responded.
“The boys just dug in in the third period,” he said.
Cassan said the Terriers having been finding ways to battle back into games and the RBC was just another example.
“The guys never quit, just like they have all year,” he said. “…. We had a good push in the third. We needed to play that way earlier. We almost left it too late.”
Falloon said the team has just never given up this season.
“Even in our league down in the third we battled,” he said.
McMullen said the Terriers knew what they had to do.
“We had to get two goals,” he said, adding it wasn’t something where the timing mattered, as long as they came, and in the RBC final it all fell into place.
Chesney said the outcome once again showed the Terriers resiliency, and he wasn’t surprised when the goals came to take the game to overtime.
“One thing about these guys, they never quit … I had texted my wife, if we got one goal, we’d get two,” he said.
Kale Thomson was the winning netminder facing 34-shots, while Guillaume Therien took the loss facing 46.
The last time an RBC final went to overtime was 1995, when the Calgary Canucks defeated the Gloucester Rangers.
The Terriers first visit to the RBC was in Sudbury in 1991 when they lost in the semi-finals which was their same fate in 1996 in Melfort, and 1999 when the Terriers hosted the RBC. In 2006 the Terriers made the RBC final in Streetsville, losing to the Burnaby Express.