Byron Spriggs has been the reason the Winnipeg Blues are on the verge of an unlikely championship. On Friday night at MTS Iceplex, Spriggs did not disappoint and now the Blues hold a 3-0 stranglehold on the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Turnbull Cup championship series
The Blues netminder made 31 saves as he led Winnipeg to a 4-1 win over the Dauphin Kings in Game 3 of the series. Game 4 goes Sunday night in Dauphin.
With more than 1,000 fans looking on, the Blues built a 3-0 first-period lead and coasted to a victory against a team that was heaviliy favored heading into the final.
“It’s really frustrating for us,” Kings’ GM/Head Coach Marlin Murray told CKDM-Radio. “No one is going to feel sorry for us. Our guys are frustrated. I thought we controlled a lot of the play. After two periods we had 13 scoring chances and they had five; but they scored four goals. We deserved better tonight. We even hit some posts.”
It is indeed frustrating for Murray and his team because Spriggs, the former Vincent Massey High School goaltender, has been unbeatable. While Lukas Skrumeda, Warren Callis on a power play, Kamerin Nault and Mitch Hansen scored for the Blues, Spriggs had a shutout until the 19:25 mark of the third period.
The Blues were outshot 17-7 in the second period, but Spriggs stopped all 17.
“There isn’t really much you can say,” said Blues head coach Don MacGillivray with a grin. “Byron’s been great. We’ve been winning because of our goaltender. Even the two games we lost heading into the final, we lost 1-0 and 2-1. Byron gives us a chance to win every night.”
The Blues last won an MJHL championship in 2006. However, that team was one of the favorites heading into the post-season. This year’s team finished fourth in the Addison Division and had to win a best-of-three play-in series against the Winkler Flyers, just to make it to the official part of the playoffs.
The Kings, meanwhile, aren’t finished yet. It takes four games to win the series and the Blues have won only three. But coming back from a 3-0 deficit is almost impossible.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Murray. “They are still playing hard. I didn’t like the third period. We were taking bad penalties. We have a good group of guys, but the third period was nonsense on our part.”
Game 4 goes Sunday night in Dauphin. 7:30 on CKDM radio.
NOTEBOOK: For the second week in a row, a member of the Winnipeg Blues has been named the MJHL Recycle Everywhere Player of the Week. Liam Bilton, a 6-foot-4 forward with the Blues has drawn the nod this week, ending April 6… Bilton, 19, tallied five points (3-2) in two games for the Blues. Bilton, who hails from Winnipeg, also leads the playoff points race with 15 points (7-8)… The runners up were 20-year-old forward Mitch Van Teeling of the Dauphin Kings and 20-year-old Blues’ goaltender Byron Spriggs, who won the award last week.