The Wade Hamer Challenge Cup made a triumphant return to the ice at the Multiplex on Wednesday afternoon in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
And in the end, both schools shared the trophies.
The Sir John Franklin Falcons went into the day as the reigning champions of both the girls and boys events, having prevailed in the last games in February 2020. The games were held back then during the Hockey Day in Canada bonanza, but haven’t happened since due to the pandemic.
As is tradition, the girls game was up first and it was Sir John Franklin almost all the way as they skated off with a 6-2 win to successfully defend their crown.
Coach Mark Kilbride said everything went according to plan the entire game.
“The girls looked really good out there, great game by both teams, but really proud of the way our girls played,” he said.
The Falcons opened the scoring early in the first period and controlled the play for much of the first half; the games featured just two 20-minute periods as opposed to the standard three. They built up a 4-0 lead at halftime and scored a fifth shortly after the intermission. St. Pat’s, though, didn’t go down without a fight as they began to take the play to the Falcons midway through the second half. Jaci Dusome scored two fairly quick goals to cut the deficit to 5-2, and it looked as if the Irish had the Falcons reeling.
But Falcons captain Emma Carey killed any sort of rally, going end-to-end and beating Irish goaltender Tamara Mathison to seal it.
Kilbride said the goal for his team was to protect things in their own end.
“A lot of our girls are new to hockey and they bought into the idea of defence, protect our end, get it out when we were in trouble. It’s never over until it’s over and (the Irish) had a strong team themselves, but we weathered that push back from them and (we’re) glad we came out ahead.”
In the boys game, St. Pat’s scored early, but there was some confusion as to whether the puck got past Falcons goaltender Gavin Craig. It happened so fast that the puck was down in the Irish end before the referees blew their whistles and awarded St. Pat’s the opening goal. Sir John Franklin tied it shortly after that and the rivals ended the opening period tied 1-1.
The Falcons had spent plenty of time in the Irish end and St. Pat’s coach Johnny White said the talk between frames was about playing similarly to the opening moments of the game.
“We told the boys we had a great start to the game and let’s get back to that,” he said. “We were really happy with that start and needed to keep it up.”
It seemed the message was received as the Irish scored two goals within a minute to jump out to a 3-1 lead. From there, the St. Pat’s defence took over as they shut down nearly every Falcons rush. Sir John Franklin pulled Craig with about three minutes to go, looking to get the two goals to tie it up. They got one back with around 90 second remaining to cut it to 3-2, but with Craig out for the extra attacker, the Irish scored in the empty net to salt it away.
“We came into this as the underdogs (and) our guys felt it,” said White. “(Sir John) had a deep team, but we battled and got the win. We had a real strong goalie (Spencer Rivers) and a lot of really strong, mobile defencemen. We played to that strength the whole time — that was our gameplan right from the first puck-drop: cut down their chances.”
White and Kilbride agreed that it was good to have the event back after a lengthy Covid-19 hiatus.
“Our guys were ready after not doing this for almost three years,” said White. “That trophy is going to look real nice back at our school.”
“We had a record number of girls come out for us,” said Kilbride. “It’s just nice to be back.”