Kings crowned midget tourney champs
For the Thunder Bay Kings, the 2,600 plus kilometre trek from Northern Ontario was well worth it.
The Kings capped off the long journey with a 5-2 victory over Pursuit of Excellence Sunday afternoon to capture the 34th annual Daily Courier International Elite Midget Hockey Tournament.
It's the second championship for the Kings in five years. They beat Hamilton 4-1 in the 2009 title game.
"We didn't come out to BC to practice our penalty killing or practice our power-play or practice our systems we came out here to execute our systems and for the most part we did that this week," says victorious Kings head coach Darrin Nicholas.
"This is a big deal for us. It gives us a chance to see some teams we would never get to play. Our road to the national championship goes through Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well so we need to play some western based teams just to get a flavour of the type of hockey that's being played out there."
After an opening game blip, a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary Edge, the Kings, who had only played three times in the last two months, got on a roll that didn't stop.
They won their final four round robin games and Saturday's semi-final before Sunday's title victory.
Despite the score, the outcome was never really in doubt.
Even through a scoreless opening period, Thunder Bay carried much of the play with their strong, physical forecheck.
But, it was special teams that punctuated the victory.
Brad Arabia opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal two minutes into the second period. After giving up a power-play marker to POE on the same man advantage Thunder Bay took over the balance of the period.
Keaton Longpre on a power-play and Billy Exell with the teams at even strength increased the margin to two heading into the final frame.
Ryan McQueen went five-hole early in the third to put Thunder Bay up three before the winners ran into penalty trouble that could have derailed a title run.
"Our penalty killing has been strong for us all year long. We gave up a couple of power-play goals today but we don't play in this game unless we kill off 14 minutes in penalties in the semi-final last night," added Nicholas.
Key in that were a pair of lengthy five-on-three kills that faced his club midway through the third.
POE was able to manage one goal late in the second five-on-three but were not able to muster much after that.
Ryan Burton sealed the win with an empty net goal in the final minute.
Matt Lueken and Brody Saywell scored goals for Pursuit of Excellence who were trying to become the first none AAAA Kelowna team to win the tournament.
Thunder Bay was making their 12th straight visit to the tournament.
Sunday's win guarantees they will be back for lucky 13.
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