There was so much happiness and joy at Hap Parker Arena on Saturday night after Powell River Kings beat Vernon Vipers 4-2, fans almost expected Lionel Richie to drop down from the rafters singing Celebrate.
The evening began with a much-deserved ceremony to honour Joe Mastrodonato who spearheaded the group that brought the franchise to Powell River and still works tirelessly for the team.
Many Kings alumni, including past coach Rick Hopper, joined Mastrodonato at centre ice after the Kings surprised everyone by standing proud in bright red retro jerseys.
Alum Tim Bell, who still comes back to Powell River in the summer with his family to spend time with his billet family at the lake, said, “I stay in touch with the guys I played with on email and we all check in on the boys to see how they’re doing. Brad [English] and I talked to the boys today and said we need just one championship and a whole bunch of us would come back and celebrate.”
The Kings didn’t disappoint them on Saturday as they drove another nail into the playoff hopes of their nemesis, Vernon Vipers.
Teagan Waugh was a driving force early when he took a puck off the backboards and wrapped it in at 12:53 of the first period.
His second was a perfect shot into the top corner from 20 feet on the power play at 4:02 of the second period and it looked as though the game was well in hand.
It was, until the final 16 seconds of the period when the Kings lost their focus and Vernon struck for two quick goals, the second one coming with just one second to go.
Kings bounced back, however, when Daniel Schuler and Steven Schmidt each scored to ice the Vipers 4-2 in a very satisfying defeat of their rival.
“Having them knock us out three years in a row and ending my season for two of them,” said Waugh after the game, “to beat them and perhaps even eliminate them from playoff contention is a great feeling. I know their backs are against the wall in the playoff race but every time we play them it’s always a great game and it’s great to get the two points.”
Of the second period lapse Kent Lewis, head coach and general manager, said, “You expose the puck and bad things happen. That club has been lucky enough against us over the years and good too, and they are going to capitalize on dumb stuff.” He said the Kings played the Vipers’ game during the second period, “but in the third period we played better.”
Lewis admitted it was a hard game. “We sprung the jerseys on them just before the game and we hadn’t played since last weekend where I didn’t think we were really challenged, so this
was a tough game for us.”
Of his friend Mastrodonato Lewis smiled and said, “Joe hired me at 23 years old and he’s spent a lot of time balancing the books and pulling his hair out because I missed a receipt here and there. What a great night to honour a guy that is a big part of the heart and soul of our club.”
The man of the hour was humbled by the recognition and in true form deflected much of the credit to others.
“It was a great evening,” said Mastrodonato, “but it takes a lot of people to make things work. There was a bunch of people, including players, to make the franchise what it is and I was just fortunate to be a part of it.”
If the Kings want to capture first place in the conference they’ll have to beat the only team in front of them—-Surrey Eagles.
This week they start off on Friday, March 2 in Duncan to play Cowichan Valley Capitals then return home to play against the Eagles at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 3 at Hap Parker Arena and again Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm.