It didn’t end the way it was supposed to for Castlegar, but in all, it was an incredibly impressive season.
The Rebels dropped a 7-1 decision to the Osoyoos Coyotes in front of more than 1,100 fans Saturday night, as the South Okanagan squad clinched the KIJHL title in their inaugural season.
Osoyoos got things started early when forward Steve Sasyniuk scored on a breakaway in the game’s opening minute.
First period strikes by Thierry Martine, Brock Anderson and Shane Hanna, the latter coming with less than 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame, put Castlegar behind the eight-ball.
The Coyotes found three more ways to beat backup goaltender Cole Buckley over the final 40 minutes, courtesy of Hanna, C.J. Kort and Mark Miller.
Arthur Andrews scored the lone Castlegar goal in the third period.
The lopsided score was not an indication of the six-game series as a whole, as neither side was able to muster more than a two-goal victory in any of the five games prior to Saturday.
But despite the disappointment, the Rebels are sure to have fond memories of their memorable run.
“Best year of my life, no doubt,” outgoing forward Ryan Aynsley said. “[Head coach Steve Junker] completely changed me as a hockey player and as a person.”
“Nobody expected us to win this year,” the Kelowna product added.
“There’s never ever losing a friend here, we’re a family for life and we’ll always be there for each other,” overage blueliner Darren Tarasoff added.
“I had a great team, great coach and great fans, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Head coach Steve Junker says his club believed in themselves during the playoff run.
“It was neat to see them grow as a team,” Junker said, “when you saw the support from the fans in the building, I think it was hard for them not to feel proud of themselves.”
In addition to the graduation of Aynsley, Tarasoff, Mike Wiest and Erik Wentzel, Castlegar is expected to lose several other players to higher levels of hockey.
Nineteen-year-old local forward Anthony DeLong is off to the University of Central Oklahoma, while rookie phenom Jesse Knowler has committed to the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters.
Castlegar set a club record with 42 victories during the regular season, and the lengthy playoff run netted the franchise their first trip to the KIJHL finals since 1996.
Osoyoos now moves on to the Cyclone Taylor Cup, BC’s Junior B provincial championship, which gets underway Thursday in Fernie.
Chris Wahl is a news reporter at Mountain FM who’s covering the Rebels for the Castlegar News this season.
He’s also the play-by-play voice of the Rebels webcasts on KIJHL.ca. For more on the Rebels, check out
Chris’ blog at: off-the-wahl.blogspot.com