And the crowd went wild.
The Princeton Posse seized the Presidents Cup, winners of the 2022-2023 regular KIJHL season, before a record-breaking number of fans Friday, Feb. 10.
Anticipation was palatable, as lines formed in the parking lot for tickets, and curled through the doors of the lobby at the beverage kiosk.
While Princeton played most of the night on the back foot, trailing North Okanagan from the first period, the home team fought back, tied the game 3-3 with five minutes left in the third and went on to win in 3-on-3 overtime.
The victory added two points to the Posse’s record, making it impossible for any other franchise to supplant them as champions, as the regular season winds down this weekend.
“I’m exhilarated,” said club president Randy McLean, just seconds after the final buzzer.
It’s the first time in the team’s two-decade history that the Posse has hoisted the Presidents Cup, and the first time they’ve been even remotely close to touching it.
When asked if he ever thought the Posse would see this day, McLean replied: “Well, if you were dreaming. It always seems to happen in the bigger cities.”
The Posse has lost only six of 44 games this season.
“They are amazing. They’ve worked so hard and practiced so hard and I am so proud of them,” said McLean.
Lian Gayfer started the scoring for the Knights five minutes into the first frame and was answered three minutes later by Kassius Kler on the power play, with assists from Tyson Horiachka and Brayden Bablitz.
Late in the period an on-ice melee erupted after North Okanagan’s Carson Devine plowed down Posse goalie Peyton Trzaska at the top of the crease.
Devine escaped with a two-minute penalty for charging, and some punishment from Posse skaters.
Lucas Sadownyk and Brennan Watterson each took two-minute penalties for roughing, and Sadownyk, assistant captain, was awarded an additional 10-minute sit-down for game misconduct.
North Okanagan’s Ethan O’Rourke took the lead with a goal assisted by Tyson McCaig less than 30 seconds later.
Once again Gayfer opened the scoring early in the second period, widening the Knights’ lead to 3-1.
Midframe, Posse’s Anmol Garcha scores, assisted by Horiachka and Joshua Roy, kept the home team in contention for a win.
While Princeton struggled at times through the first two periods, the Posse hit the ice sharp in the third, out-shooting their opponents 20 to 13.
They were awarded with a tying goal, with less than five minutes of regular play, off the stick of Garcha again, with assists going to Bablitz and Horiachka.
At 1:08 into the overtime period, three-on-three, Sadownyk neatly tucked the puck behind North Okanagan goaltender Josh Hager.
And the crowd went wild.
The Posse plays its last regular season game away, Saturday, Feb. 11, against North Okanagan. Round one of the playoffs begin Friday, Feb. 17, and the Posse faces divisional fourth pace team the Summerland Steam.
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