DIEPPE – Brandon Boutilier’s decision to join the Truro Bearcats in early January turned out to be a good one.
© Viktor Pivovarov – Moncton Times & Transcript
Mitchell Robillard of the Truro Bearcats celebrates a first-period goal during Game 6 of the Maritime Junior Hockey League final series on Thursday in Dieppe. The Bearcats won the game 5-2 to capture the Kent Cup. It was Truro’s third Maritime junior title since re-entering the league in 1997. The Bearcats will now advance to the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship April 30 to May 4 in Saint Jerome, Que.
Boutilier and his teammates captured the Maritime Junior Hockey League title on Thursday with a 5-2 win over the Dieppe Commandos to win the Kent Cup final series in six games.
“Oh man, unbelievable,” an ecstatic Boutilier said of winning the title, just moments after the final buzzer had sounded. “The best feeling I’ve ever had in my life – 100 per cent.”
The Bearcats will now advance to the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship April 30 to May 4 in Saint Jerome, Que. They enter that tournament as defending champions.
Boutilier, who had a goal and six assists in 14 playoff games, was acquired by the Bearcats on Jan. 10 in a deadline deal with the Valley Wildcats.
“I made the move here, Phil Fife got me to come to Truro on the very last day of the deadline, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I couldn’t be prouder,” Boutilier said.
Mitchell Robillard opened the scoring at 1:59 of the first period and Jordan McNaughton made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 18:23, and the Bearcats were off and running.
“Tonight was our best game of the series, I thought,” said Bearcats coach Shawn Evans. “I thought Robillard’s early goal two minutes into the game and our first period was probably our best of the series.”
Jacob Smith’s goal at 1:56 of the second gave Truro a 3-0 lead, before Joel Blanchard scored for the Commandos at 13:13 of the middle stanza.
Rookie Kyle Tibbo tallied at 5:11 of the third period to make it a 4-1 game.
Andrew Meredith’s goal at 10:09 cut the Dieppe deficit to two, however, Fife scored at 14:43 of the third period to put the game on ice in front of 672 fans at the Arthur J. LeBlanc Arena.
Bearcats goaltender Chris Festarini made 34 saves, while Connor Wilkinson of the Commandos made 31 stops.
It was the first time in the series the visiting team had won.
“It’s a great thing,” Tibbo said. “My first year here, coming to a winning team. We had a great season and an amazing playoffs. (Dieppe) gave us a really good run, but it’s great to finish it off.”
The Bearcats were the class of the league all season. They won the President’s Cup as regular season champions with a 38-11-1-2 record, and were the hottest team since the Christmas break, winning 19 of their final 22 regular-season games.
They swept Valley and Pictou County in first- and second-round playoff series before being truly tested by the Commandos.
“Since Christmastime, the way these players have played, I have had the best seat in the house behind the bench, and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” said Evans.
It was Truro’s third Maritime league title since re-entering the league in 1997. The Bearcats other championships were also clinched on the road – 2005 in Campbellton and 2007 in Summerside.
Festarini sported a 12-2 record in the playoffs, a miniscule 2.08 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.