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Ice Hawks and Sockeyes clash one more time in Cyclone Taylor Cup final

PJHL rivals square off this afternoon for the 11th time this season with provincial title on the line

A wild four days at the Cyclone Taylor Cup Championships will conclude with an all-Pacific Junior Hockey League final for the first time in 12 years.

The host Richmond Sockeyes and Delta Ice Hawks will clash for the gold medal game at 1 p.m. at Minoru Arenas. The day’s action will begin with the Campbell River Storm and Kimberley Dynamiters meeting for bronze at 10 a.m.

The final day of round-robin play started Saturday with both spots in the gold medal game still up for grabs. However, the picture became much clearer when Campbell River jumped out to a 4-0 lead midway through the opening period and would cruise to a 9-0 win over Kimberley.

That result guaranteed Delta would play for gold prior to its final round-robin game with the Sockeyes. 

The Vancouver Island champion Storm needed an Ice Hawks win in regulation to finish ahead of Richmond to grab the other spot. However, their chances took a hit even before the opening face-off. Hawks head coach Steve Robinson opted to rest three of his key players — goalie Jordan Naylor, captain Gary Dhaliwal and defenceman Aidan Hansen-Bukuta. Netminder Jordy Engleson got his first start since Feb. 4.

Richmond jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the 2:17 mark and would go on to a 5-3 victory, outshooting the PJHL champions 40-16. Jordan Deyrmenjian scored twice in a losing cause.

The gold medal game will mark the 11th time the Fraser River rivals have squared off this season. 

Delta won the regular season series (2-1-0-1) and then took out the Sockeyes in five games in the second round of the PJHL playoffs. Most games have been tight checking and low scoring.

Now it’s one last showdown with a provincial championship on the line and the end of junior hockey for 16 graduating players, including 13 from the Sockeyes. All three leagues voted last summer not to attend the Keystone Cup Western Canadian Championships. Alberta and Saskatchewan will also not be represented.

The Hawks put themselves in excellent position to play for gold thanks to a 3-2 overtime win over Campbell River on Friday.

They weren’t at their best against a determined and desperate Storm team but found a way to win.

Eric Bourhill ended the drama when he split through a pair of defencemen and, while falling, his momentum carried him and a Storm blueliner right into goaltender Liam Murphy. The puck continued into the net and the officials let the goal stand, much to the dismay of the Storm and its supporters. The protest cost Vancouver Island champions three game misconducts, including one to Murphy.

Sometimes fate works in strange ways. 

Bourhill had taken the place of Mark Ephstein in the line-up due to his final exam at UBC. The 19-year-old had played sparingly in a tight-checking third period but head coach Steve Robinson wanted to utilize his excellent speed with the teams playing four-on-four in overtime. 

“I had a feel about 'Boursy' but I needed to put him out there with one my best defensive guys to bail him out in case it goes sideways,” he said. “It’s open ice and he was fresh. Good on him for putting his foot down and making a play. It was a hard call to make but the puck did go straight in. Definitely a very tough way to lose a game given what was at stake.

“I didn’t think we were great today. I just thought some of the guys were not themselves and as we started grinding down the third I was sticking with the guys who were competing at a high level. Sometimes it’s hard to manufacture that when you are sitting in the driver’s seat but if we lost that game we are right back in the drama. We found a win to win today.”