Craig breaks Pirates’ hearts with OT winner

Falher Pirates’ goaltender Ryan Noble is consoled by backup goaltender Dyson Loewen after giving up the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 7 of the NPHL Final March 25. The Canucks won the game 4-3 and the NPHL’s Campbell Cup. Noble led the playoffs in goals against average with a stingy 2.54.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Liam Craig’s unassisted overtime goal at the 5:55 mark in Game 7 gave the Dawson Creek Canucks their first NPHL title in 20 years at the expense of the Falher Pirates March 25 in the British Columbia city.

It was only the third time in 69 years of playoff hockey that the final was decided in overtime in Game 7 and only the second time in league history that any seven-game series had the home team win every game.

The Canucks won their third title while the Pirates were trying to win their fourth.

The game also marked the third straight overtime in the series. No final ever had three overtime games meaning the teams, who were meeting for the first time in playoff history, were setting long-standing records in the process.

We can only hope they meet again!

In a fitting gesture by the NPHL, long-time president Jack McAvoy’s widow, Patty McAvoy, helped present the Campbell Cup along with league president Michael Mercredi.

In Game 7, Wes Shipton opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period.

In the second peiod, Dion Knelson tied the game but less than two minutes later, Kevin Swales scored on a power play to restore the Canucks’ lead.

Anthony Gilbert gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead at the 3:42 mark of the third period and it looked like the game was over.

But the never-say-die Pirates rallied. Eric Dentinger’s unassisted goal gave the Pirates hope with 5:13 left.

With 3:27, left, the Canucks were caught with too many men on the ice and the Pirates went on the power play. Joseph Sylvain tied the game with 2:13 left sending the hundreds of Pirates fans who made the long trip down Highway 49 to the B.C. city into a frenzy.

Pirates’ fans no doubt had visions of déjà vu. It was 11 years ago to the day that Keith Reade scored in overtime to give the Pirates a 3-2 win at Grande Prairie and their third title.

But not this time! Craig’s goal from close in sent the home fans into a euphoric state.

The Pirates forced a seventh game with a thrilling 3-2 win in a home game played at Peace River March 23. Rob Lemay’s overtime goal at the 7:27 mark forced the deciding game.

Knelson gave the Pirates a 1-0 led in the second period before Kevin Sales’ power play goal tied the game.

In the third, Cruz Cote again gave the Pirates the lead at the 1:34 mark on the power play, only to see Shipton tie it 2-2 only 28 seconds later.

Cote and Sylvain assisted on Lemay’s overtime winner.

In Game 5, it was Swales who scored on the power play at 6:36 to give the Canucks a 4-3 win.

The Canucks took a 2-0 first period lead on goals from Brett Norman and Matt Schmermund.

After a scoreless second, Jared Zawacki scored short-handed and the Pirates had hope.

However, another power play later in the period yielded fruit for the Canucks when Shipton scored to make it 3-1.

However, the Pirates staged an incredible late game comeback, with David Sanchez scoring with 1:42 left on a power play and Pat Rowan with 26 seconds left to force overtime.

The Canucks advanced to the final after defeating the Fort St. John Flyers in five games in the first round, then the Spirit River Rangers in seven games in the West Final. Each game in the series was decided by one goal – a league record – including a record four in overtime.

The Pirates swept the Grimshaw Huskies and Manning Comets to reach the final.

The Cancuks now represent B.C. in the senior provincial playoffs while the Rangers will represent Alberta in a similar tournament. Both tournament are this weekend.

Share this post