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Ridge Meadows Flames win the Stonehouse Cup

Maple Ridge junior squad beats Richmond 4-1 in game 7
The Ridge Meadows Flames are the Stonehouse Cup champions. (Ridge Meadows Flames/Special to The News)

The Ridge Meadows Flames won the Stonehouse Cup on Monday night, as they beat the Richmond Sockeyes 4-1 in game seven.

It’s the first time the Flames have won the league trophy since the 1997-1998 season.

There was a jubilant group of Ridge fans at Richmond’s Minoru Arena, said GM Derek Bedard.

“When we scored it was loud, and when we won the game it was really loud,” he said.

The game was scoreless through the first period and most of the second. Then Ridge’s top forwards got the job done, as Theo Kochan, Jack Foster, and Zack Lagrange staked their team a 3-0 lead. Each finished the game with a goal and an assist.

The Sockeyes got one back, but then Flame Pierce Whyte finished it off with an empty netter.

Foster finished tied for the playoff lead with 25 points in 15 games, while Lagrange was third with 23, and Kochan fourth with 22.

After having lost game seven of the championship last season, the veteran Flames would not be denied, said the GM.

Bedard admitted he was worried after his team was shut out in the 7-0 loss in game four.

“I’m worried every game,” he added. “But I kind of wondered – is that one going to leave a scar?”

Then the Flames lost game five 4-1, to go down 3-2 in the series. They needed to win two straight, against one of the league’s best-ever teams, which had lost just one game during regulation in 48 regular season games.

But all the Flames believed, he said.

“We’ve won so many hockey games with this core group over the last two years, that it’s hard to doubt them,” said Bedard. “We’re a very motivated group.”

Head coach Brent Hughes, who had an NHL career, said winning the championship ranks “up there” with his most memorable experiences in hockey. He had played on two NHL teams that won the Presidents trophy as the best regular season team, then lost in the playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. So he knows how special it is being the last team standing.

“It was a great win, and our last two games were probably our best two,” said Hughes.

He said everyone played well – goaltender Matt Candusso, his top line, the power play that struck twice, right through to the “kid line” of 17-year-olds Josh Bettesworth, Jacob Roche, and Jacob Douglas.

“They all played their hearts out,” Hughes said.

After earning it over three seasons at the helm, the head coach said the great feeling from Monday night carried over into Tuesday for him.

“It was very exciting for us to win a championship, and to get over that hurdle,” he continued. “And to win it with a great group – I’m talking about our players, but also about our staff, we’ve got a great staff.”

The Stonehouse Cup is named after former Flames owner and GM Ray Stonehouse.

“He helped me a lot, and it was special to get a trophy with his name on it last night,” said Bedard.

He tipped his cap to the Sockeyes.

“They’re a first-class organization,” said Bedard. “The handshake took forever after the game, because there is so much mutual respect between the teams.”

Flames owner Andrew Ilaender was impressed by the way his team took control of the series over the last two games.

“Our staff, players, and volunteers are the hardest working, and they deserve it,” he said. “It makes me happy for the group that helps run this team.”

The Flames will travel to Kimberly for the provincial Junior A championship tournament on April 18-21. They and the hometown Dynamiters will be in the tournament, along with the champions from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The teams will play a four-team round-robin, then a playoff game.

The KIJHL championship will be played between the Revelstoke Grizzlies and the Fernie Ghostriders. The VIJHL final is being played between the Kerry Park Islanders and Saanich Predators.

Ilaender said he doesn’t know a lot about the opposing teams, but based on his experience at this level of hockey for the past 19 years, his team should be favoured. He said they’re the most well-rounded team he’s seen.

“It’s a really well-rounded team, from the goaltenders out,” he said. “We can roll four lines, and that’s important in a long series.”

He too gave a nod to the Sockeyes, saying “If we can beat them, we can beat anybody.”

This level used to be called Junior B hockey, but is now Junior A, Tier Two, and the teams will be playing for the Mowat Cup – a traditional trophy that was first donated in 1928, but has not been awarded in recent years.

“The Mowat Cup has long symbolized Junior A hockey excellence in British Columbia,” BC Hockey chief executive officer Cameron Hope said. “It’s fitting to see its return, and we all look forward to seeing a champion hold it high in Kimberley for the first time in several seasons.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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