It wasn’t meant to be for Kelowna Sparta in their quest to capture the Coy Cup as senior men’s AA champions.
Instead, the host Whitehorse Huskies — with some second-period help from the hometown officials — captured their first Coy Cup with a 7-4 victory in the Yukon on Saturday night.
The penalty-filled championship game saw Sparta score three power-play goals, but Whitehorse matched that stat and sealed the win with a shorthanded goal by first-star Derek Klassen, making it 6-4 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation.
The Huskies added an empty-netter from Ted Stephens, his second goal of the game to match Klassen’s output.
The final turned in the second period, with Sparta trailing 3-2 after the opening 20 minutes, when Whitehorse was gifted two consecutive power plays and capitalized on both to take a 5-2 lead.
Former Kelowna Rockets standout Jason Deleurme cut the deficit to 5-3, converting a power play before the intermission, and Sparta closed to within 5-4 on Tylor Branszen’s goal midway through the third period on another man advantage.
Deleurme then drew a penalty and Kelowna was pressing for the equalizer before Klassen fired a 2-on-1 feed past Sparta goalie Tyler Briggs on a shorthanded rush for the Huskies.
Kelowna was chasing the game throughout, falling behind 2-0 in the first seven minutes and never getting back to even.
As for the suspect penalties, Whitehorse appeared to be getting an initial call before a spirited fight broke out between Kelowna’s Kelly Loudoun and Rob Stuckey, but that infraction was forgotten and Loudoun ended up getting the extra two minutes.
Whitehorse scored and, shortly thereafter, with a delayed penalty coming to Sparta, a Huskies player blatantly wiped out two Kelowna players but escaped punishment. The puck ended up in Sparta’s net again on the ensuing advantage.
Kelowna was unbeaten in the round-robin portion of the tournament, defeating the Terrace River Kings 3-2 on Tuesday and the North Island Capitals 6-1 on Wednesday before tying Whitehorse 5-5 on Thursday to earn a bye to Saturday’s final.
Whitehorse thumped Terrace 7-3 in Friday’s semifinal.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The referees for Saturday's championship game were not from Whitehorse as the story suggests. They were, in fact, from Fort St. John and Vanderhoof, B.C.
-Larry Fisher, The Daily Courier