The Truro Bearcats captured the Maritime Junior Hockey League title Friday after a 4-3 victory over the Miramichi Timberwolves in the seventh and deciding game of the final series.
“It might be my sweetest one yet,” said Evans, coach of the Bearcats. “It’s not about me, but it’s my fourth final in five years, and I told the players before the game, I thanked them and I told them this is the best group and the best, honest team I’ve had in this run of five years, and they found a way.”
Indeed, they did.
With the victory, the Bearcats solved the mystery of the Miramichi Civic Centre, winning in that rink for the first time in the series, and doing it when it mattered most.
“Our goaltender was great, our team was good and we had a whole bunch of heart,” said Evans.
Up until Friday, the MHL final was a homer series, as the home team won all six previous games.
Truro will now represent the MHL at next week’s Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian championship in Terrebonne, Que.
With Friday’s game tied 2-2 in the third period, Connor Morrison put Truro ahead with just 1:53 remaining.
Kyle Tibbo, captain of the Bearcats, scored into an empty net 33 seconds later for a 4-2 lead.
The Timberwolves, however, wouldn’t go quietly, as Colby Tower made it a one-goal game with 58 seconds to go to set up a nail-biting finish.
“I feel very fortunate and very grateful to beat as good a team as we just did,” Evans said. “They are so good offensively and they made a lot of moves to strengthen their team, they had a lot of marquee names, and somehow we found a way to do it.”
Bearcats goaltender Jason Rioux was named playoff MVP and rightfully so. He was sensational throughout the post-season and made 35 saves in Game 7.
Dylan Burton gave Truro a 1-0 lead at 13:10 of the first period. Michael Constantine got the Timberwolves on even terms at 1:59 of the second, before Mark O’Shaughnessy gave the visitors a 2-1 edge with a goal at 5:41 of the middle stanza.
Josh Uhrich tied it at two less than two minutes into the third to make for a thrilling final 18 minutes.
Truro has won four MHL titles since returning to the league in 1997-98.
The Bearcats leave Monday for Terrebonne and play their first game at the Fred Page Cup on Wednesday.