By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Warren Callis’ shorthanded marker with 46 seconds left in the first period proved decisive as the Winnipeg Blues brought home their first Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship in eight years in a 5-1 win over the Dauphin Kings on Tuesday night.
They weren’t supposed to get by the mighty Selkirk Steelers in the first round. They did. Dubbed by some as a fluke, they weren’t supposed to beat the defending MJHL Champion Steinbach Pistons in the Addison Division Final. They did.
In fact, the team that defied all the odds in the first two rounds of the MJHL playoffs secured their third straight series win Tuesday night, locking up the MJHL crown after a dominating performance over the Sher-Wood champion Kings.
“It’s obviously a great feeling,” said Blues head coach Don MacGillivary. “I thought our guys played really, really well tonight. It’s tough to close out a series, especially against a good club but we had a good push.
“We earned our way, we beat the first seed, the second seed, the third seed, so we did what we needed to do. We can fell very much that we earned the championship.”
Clay Tait opening the scoring with 1:34 left in the first period after a hesitant first 18 minutes and change. Tait’s goal was followed up quickly Callis’ game-winner shorthanded, his second of that nature in the playoffs.
The Kings were given a golden opportunity to level affairs after Joel Schreyer was ejected from the game for checking from behind — 14 seconds after the Blues opened their account — but Callis was having none of it.
“The way we had been playing all playoffs, no one could stop us,” said Callis. “No one else really gave us a chance but we proved everyone wrong. It feels great.”
The intermission stopped the bleeding for the Kings, momentarily. 19-year-old Kamerin Nault found the back of the net for the Blues with just 3:21 into the second frame. And Nault wasn’t finished.
Kings’ forward Aubrey Chapman found himself in the sin bin for boarding and Nault, who could smell blood, pounced, finding the back of the net for the seventh time — and second of the game — to put the Blues up 4-0.
“Individually, it’s a game you dream of going to bed but just to see that final buzzer go and you get the W is the best feeling in the world,” said Nault after his two goal, one assist performance. “(I am) speechless right now, we battled so hard for so long and just to get the reward is fantastic right now.”
Dauphin head coach Marlin Murray called a 30 second timeout in an effort to calm his team down and to a certain extent it worked. Brent Wold would give the Kings a breath of life at the 15:30 mark with his fourth of the postseason.
But it would prove to little to late as Mitch Hansen would score with 1:05 left in the third to seal the Kings fate and the Turnbull Cup for the Blues.
“We just played our hardest out there, we gave it all we got, we stuck to our game plan out there and I guess it worked out in the end,” said Blues captain Channing Bresciani. “We did what we had to do.”
Notes: Blues forward Liam Bilton was named MJHL playoff Most Valuable Player and doubled as the playoff’s top scorer with a league-leading eight goals as well as being tied for the postseason lead in assists at nine and led the playoffs in power play goals with five… Blues netminder Byron Spriggs was named the top goalie with 14 wins and just three losses, sporting a rock solid 1.67 goals-against average with a .936 save percentage… The Blues won all three series by a 4-1 margin and lost Game 4 in each series.