One has to start at the end of this story to understand the historic meaning for the Chase Heat of the 4-2 Game 5 win over the rival Kamloops Storm.
At home at the Art Holding Memorial Arena filled to the rafters with 452 avid and raucous drum-thumping fans, the Heat got through the KIJHL second round for the first time in the franchise’s six-year on-ice history. It was a moment in time for the village on the shores of Little Shuswap Lake to be jubilant and proud. While that hockey chapter is over, the next one involves a best-of-five series against the perennially great Osoyoos Coyotes. Nothing it seems comes easy in the KIJHL playoffs.
So back to Game 1 in the division championship in Chase, where the Heat are the perfect hosts, allowing the Loops lads to enjoy a 5-4 double overtime win. It’s all Heat in the first with three goals, the first from the twig of Travis Beaubien assisted by Pat Brady and Cam Watson. The second comes off the curved bow of Michael Fidanza helped by Watson and Josh Bourne. The third is delivered by thundering power-forward Zachary Fournier on the power play from Mason Palaga and Kaden Black. After 20, it’s 3-0.
In the second, Kamloops gets one back from Evan Walls before Brady restores the three-goal lead from Spencer Farstad and Fournier. Then the air gets sucked out of the arena as Keaton Gordon scores shorthanded for the Storm. That’s followed by two goals five seconds apart from Tre Sales and Bryce Mcdonald, and after 40 it’s 4-4. No score in the third, or the first overtime, and then Evan Walls scores in sudden-death, second overtime to send the Storm sailing home.
The following evening the Heat take revenge, winning 4-1 in Chase. The Storm’s lone goal is the first on the board from Gordon. Then Cory Loring snaps a laser from Ryan Okino and Beaubien, with Cody Hodges on the power play tapping in the puck from Kolten Moore and Fidanza. In the second, Grady Musgrave tallies from Bourne and Fidanza. In the third, Michael Howlett, with speed, sneaks in an empty netter to put icing on the cake.
Game 3 goes March 9 at Memorial Arena in Kamloops and the visiting Heat apply just enough heat to walk away with a 3-0 shutout. Nic Bruyere stars in this contest, stopping all 35 attempts by the Storm. Hodges in the first, from Okino and Palaga, pops goal number one. In period two, Moore on the power play from Fidanza and Bourne is goal number two, before Brady from Evan Hughes and Fournier plunks goal number three behind beleaguered Jason Sandhu in the Kamloops net.
Game 4 isn’t a nail biter until the 55-minute mark. Fournier, in the first on the power play from Palaga and Brady, opens scoring. The Loops’ Garrett Ewert evens things up at 1-1. In the second, it’s Beaubien from Moore and Loring, followed by Bourne on the power play from Moore and Hodges who makes it 3-1 after 40.
In the third, Howlett, from Fournier and Brett Alexander, widens the margin. Then the Kamloops Kids scare the knickers off the Chase fans in attendance, getting a pair from Evan Walls.
It’s not enough, as the Heat claim a 4-3 victory with Bruyere foiling 36 of 39 shots by Kamloops marksmen.
So it’s Game 5 in Chase, the one that ends the suffering of the Storm. On a night in front of fans hanging onto the edges of their seats, Bruyere blocks, stops, chops and locks out 45 of 47 attempts by the desperadoes from the city. On a night where the rest of the squad left their A game off the ice, puck luck and “Saint” Nic guaranteed an end to the division final. Musgrave in the first, from Palaga and Loring, got things started. In the second, Brady, on the man advantage from Loring and Palaga, made it 2-0. Then the Storm got one each from Mitch Friesen and Walls in the second. In the third, the game winner went to Moore on the man advantage from Bourne and Musgrave. Once again, the empty-net king, Howlett, put a dollop of icing on this victory celebration.
Chase heads to Osoyoos for a pair of shinny contests Saturday and Sunday the 18th and 19th. The Heat are back to Chase for two games Tuesday and Wednesday the 21st and 22nd. Wednesday’s game and the one following on Friday the 24th in Osoyoos will only be played if necessary. The Heat greatly appreciate the huge support they’ve received from the faithful fans.