On April 12, 1997, Powell River Regals Hockey Club claimed its second national championship and first of three Allan Cup senior AAA titles in nine years. That team, which was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, will be inducted into the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame this June.
The 7-3 win at Hap Parker Arena over three-time defending champion Warroad Lakers came 27 years after the club won the intermediate A Hardy Cup Canadian championship, also at home, but at the Civic Arena which no longer stands off Willingdon Avenue. The 1969/1970 Regals were inducted into the local sports hall during the inaugural intake in 2019.
Spurred on by their fans chanting “Go, Regals, go,” the 1997 team overcame first-period jitters to record a victory in the final game of a four-team tournament over the Lakers, a team from Minnesota that represented central Canada.
Regals scored just 36 seconds into the game, but by the halfway mark of the first period they trailed 2-1.
“Playing Warroad was kind of like a process over a few years,” said Scott Mastrodonato, who was named MVP of the tournament. “When we first met they beat the crap out of us [9-1 at Allan Cup 1995 in Alberta]. We had a chance the next year at a tournament in Alaska to play them again, and I think we surprised ourselves by getting a pretty healthy win [8-1 at 1996 Anchorage International Ice Classic]. When we played them in the round-robin here, and then in the final, we always felt like we could win but it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Going into the final two periods, it was a matter of doing all the right things, playing hard and creating chances, he added.
Regals tied the game late in the second period, then Rick McLaren, in his first season with the club, scored his first of two goals. One was assisted by Mark Bogoslowski and another was unassisted after the rookie broke up a play outside the Lakers’ blue line and blasted a shot past their goaltender.
“We had so much depth and talent; we just had to keep plowing forward and late in the game we got results for that,” said Mastrodonato. “I don’t think anyone in the building felt the 7-3 final score was reflective of how close the game was.”
Regals took a 5-2 lead into the third period but the defending champions created some doubt, cutting the deficit to two goals early. Then a shorthanded goal from Trent Kaese, set up by current Regals’ manager Tod English, all but sealed the victory. Fans were sure of a win when Mastrodonato sent the puck into an empty net with under three minutes remaining.
“The empty-net goal was the nail that closed the coffin,” said Mastrodonato. “We couldn’t stop them from trying; they were champions and weren’t going to give up. I just felt so much relief and it wasn’t until very late in the game we felt that way.
“As an athlete, when the countdown begins, whether you’re on the ice or on the bench, this elation just takes over and everybody feels it.”
Mastrodonato was named to the tournament all-star team on defence along with teammate Chad Vizzuti, who was named the top goaltender. McLaren was named to the all-star forward line with Paul Andrea of Truro, Nova Scotia, and Paul Hanson of Warroad. Mike Ross of Warroad was the other blueliner selected.
In addition to the Allan Cup, the Regals claimed the Patton Cup as Western Canadian champions.
Earlier in the tournament, Regals defeated Truro and Warroad in round-robin play on April 8 and 9, and tied Stony Plain, Alberta, on April 10, to advance directly to the final. Stony Plain was eliminated after the round-robin. Warroad shut out Truro 3-0 in the semi-final on April 11.
When the 1997 Regals were inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame five years ago, English called it a proud moment for not only the team, but also the entire community, and said being recognized is “like a win that keeps winning.” That comment is proving prophetic with the latest accolade for the team, enshrinement in the local sports hall.
“There are people who were involved with that team, on and off the ice, who should be very proud: players, executive members, wives, girlfriends, parents, fans, the entire community,” said English. “Most of all, I’m proud that it was primarily a local team, which was unprecedented for senior hockey.”
Of the 25 players on the roster, 17 were born and raised in the qathet region. At the time, Powell River Minor Hockey Association was full of coaches and volunteers who had been part of the club’s Hardy Cup championship.
“It was a testament to the hockey evolution and striving to be excellent in those early years, the 1960s and 1970s,” added English. “We became a product of good coaching and mentoring; a lot of kids ended up staying here because of that.”
Members of the 1997 Regals will be inducted into the Powell River Sports Hall of Fame, along with nine individual inductees, on June 11 at Hap Parker Arena, the same venue where they captured the Allan Cup for the first time 25 years ago.
“I’m excited for the organization for having that opportunity; it’s great that we can celebrate many years later with so many well-deserving past and current inductees,” said Mastrodonato. “I look back at how special that entire tournament was, all the work that went into planning it and how much fun we had playing in it. To cap it off with a national championship in front of an entire community celebrating right there with us, that will always stand out for me.”