Mike Lee won a Herder Memorial Trophy provincial senior hockey title, and a couple of junior hockey championships as a player, but his greatest highlight in the sport may have come Sunday … at a minor hockey game, no less.
Lee was behind the bench as his Tricom Thunder pulled off an improbable and remarkable victory at the 2018 Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay.
Trailing The Gulls, a team from the Halifax area, 3-1 with a minute left to play in regulation time in the gold-medal game Sunday afternoon, Tricom — a team comprised of players from metro St. John’s, including the Southern Shore, Mount Pearl, C.B.S. and northeast Avalon — got a goal from Chase Wellon with 58 seconds left in regulation time.
Things looked dire for the Thunder when star forward Zach Dean picked up a slashing minor with 30 seconds to go.
But with time ticking down, and Tricom netminder J.T. Tobin pulled to make it five-on-five, Jack Connors whacked a loose puck past Gulls goalie Jacob Goobie with 1.6 seconds showing on the clock.
That forced overtime, and set the stage for Ryan Greene, who finished tied for second in tournament scoring, to pot the winner 1:49 into the extra session.
“That,” said Lee, the Tricom coach who will also run the bench for Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2019 Canada Winter Games squad, “was by far a game you’ll never forget. Ever. I mean, the way this ended, in the championship game of a high-profile tournament, that’s not something you see every day.
“There was almost a feeling of disbelief. I had to sit down.”
HOW THEY DID
Results for Newfoundland and Labrador teams in Atlantic minor hockey championships over the weekend:
• Bantam AAA at Torbay
Tricom Thunder win gold
St. John’s Hitmen win bronze
• Peewee AAA at Edmundston, N.B.
Tricom Thunder win bronze
• Female Bantam AAA at Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Tri-Pen Ice finish fifth
It was the second gold medal for a Newfoundland and Labrador team in the AAA bantam Atlantics in three years, when the St. John’s Hitmen turned the trick in 2016.
Speaking of the Hitmen, St. John’s won the bronze medal Sunday with a 4-1 win over Prince County Warriors from P.E.I.
Jordan Winter, Will Williams, Patrick Hurley and Brett Hudson, into an empty net, scored for the winners.
Evan Martin stopped 32 of 33 shots for the Hitmen.
As for the final, Dean also scored for Tricom, and Tobin stopped 35 shots to register the win. Tobin was named the tournament’s top goalie with a 2.00 goals against average and .943 save percentage. Tricom defenceman Travis Badcock was the tournament’s top scorer with three goals and seven assists.
Dean further cemented himself as one of Atlantic Canada’s top 14-year-old players, winning the tournament MVP award. The smooth-skating Greene, who’s also emerged as a high-end talent for his age, earned the Top 6 Golden Select award, or all-star designation.
The two both finished with five goals and nine points in four round-robin games.
“It’s been said all year we rely on two players (Dean and Greene), but my biggest message to the boys is we are a team, that no one player is greater than the next guy and that we stick together,” Lee said.
“There was never any quit in this team.”
ATLANTIC AAA PEEWEE CHAMPIONSHIP
In Edmundston, N.B., where the Tricom Thunder entered the Atlantic AAA peewee championship as defending champions, Michael Strapp’s goal at 7:26 of overtime gave the Newfoundland and Labrador representative a 4-3 win over the Moncton Hawks in the bronze-medal game.
Mitchell Wagner, Tyson Snow and J.T. Ryan also scored for the winners.
Wagner, the team’s captain, tied for third in tournament scoring with four goals and four assists in four round-robin games.
Keegan Warren posted the win in goal, stopping 17 of 20 shots.
The Tricom and St. John’s teams play in the Newfoundland and Labrador AAA bantam and peewee leagues.
ATLANTIC AAA FEMALE BANTAM CHAMPIONSHIP
Newfoundland and Labrador, represented by the Tri-Pen Ice, had a rough time of it in Charlottetown, P.E.I. going 0-4 in the five-team event.
The Ice were outscored 17-2 in the four games.