The Castlegar Rebels won the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Championship after a 4 – 0 victory over the North Okanagan Knights in game five in Castlegar on Monday, April 1.
Stuart Walton had two goals on the night, the first on a power play at 5:54 of the opening period (assisted by Travis Wellman and Bryan Lubin), and the next coming unassisted at 10:36 of the second period.
Walton’s two points put him at 27 for the playoffs, one ahead of Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward Ryan Edwards, who had 11 goals and 15 assists in his 13 post-season games.
Matt Reed scored at 18:12 of the second — between the two by Walton — with assists from Darren Medeiros and Kody Disher to send the Rebels to the final frame with a 3 – 0 lead.
Medeiros finished off the scoring at 10:33 of the third on a feed from Disher; JR Krolik got the second assist on the play.
The Rebels dominated play throughout the game, never letting their guard down. By playing hard for all 60 minutes, the Rebels earned a fourth league title for the franchise.
The final shots on goal against the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference champions was 44, in stark contrast to the 18 Rebels goaltender Jordan Gluck faced.
Though he wasn’t too busy in net — a recurring theme in the series — Gluck said he didn’t mind.
Describing his teammates as being “all over” the Knights during the series, Gluck said that while he would prefer to face more shots, he was happy things worked out as they did.
“It’s my last junior game ever, words can’t even describe it,” he said. “It couldn’t have been a better ending for me and the whole team. It’s unbelievable.”
The Rebels got past the Spokane Brave four games to one in the first round, then fought a gruelling battle with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in a division series that went seven games.
After that they dispatched the Golden Rockets in four straight for the Kootenay Conference title before taking on the winners of the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, the North Okanagan Knights.
The Rebels now move on to compete with the champions of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League (the Richmond Sockeyes), the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (the Victoria Cougars) and the host team (Comox Valley Glacier Kings) for the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
The Cyclone Taylor Cup is a round-robin format and will be held April 11 – 14 in Comox.
The winner of the Cyclone Taylor Cup then moves on again, competing for the Western Canada “B” Crown, the Keystone Cup, against teams from Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
The Keystone Cup games are April 18 – 21 in St. Malo, Manitoba.
Asked if he was looking ahead to the Cyclone Taylor Cup, Gluck said no one was focused on it just yet.
“We’re trying to soak this in right now — we’re pretty pumped,” he said. “We’re excited to go to the island and represent the Kootenays. I think it was a great job by our coaching staff getting us prepared for every game. Game seven against Beaver Valley in the second round really brought our team together and we knew that if were ever down in a game we weren’t out. We had confidence in ourselves to come back so we just played as a team and kept it rolling. We’re going to give them hell and do our best.”
Rebels coach and general manager, Steve Junker, said he considered the whole team playoff MVP’s and was proud of all of them.
“It’s so exciting watching them,” Junker said. “You can’t imagine — how they worked and how they played this whole series. We had some tastes of adversity in the first series and learned from it, grew from it.”
Describing the Beaver Valley series as “unbelievable,” Junker said what the team had to go through physically and emotionally, to come out on top, helped solidify the group.
Junker said he hasn’t paid a lot of attention to the hockey being played in the other leagues but will be prepared for tough competition at the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
“I have no doubt that the teams out of those leagues will be top shelf,” he said. “When you win a championship and have success in anything you do, opportunity comes from that — the Cyclone Taylor is just another opportunity for us to have success as a group. That’s how we’re going to look at it.”
Junker said the team would take a couple of days off before getting back at it.
“It’s a grind,” he said. “They have played a lot of hockey and this is a time when they can relax and enjoy it. They deserve it.”