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Stunning comeback moves Powell River Regals into Coy Cup final

Late third period goals by Brett Kinley and Hunter Findlater eliminate Williams Lake Stampeders from tournament

Hunter Findlater capped a stunning comeback for Powell River Regals in the semi-final of the 2024 Coy Cup senior AA provincial championship at Hap Parker Arena on Friday, March 29.

After a furious third-period rally to tie the game 5-5, Findlater took a pass from Cory Burnett, toe-dragged the puck past a Williams Lake Stampeders’ defender and sent a shot into the bottom corner of the net with 1:01 remaining on the clock, sending a large crowd at Hap Parker Arena into a frenzy. Regals’ captain Jack Long, who earned player of the game honours for the tournament hosts, also assisted on the play.

Powell River opened the scoring 2:11 into the game when Ethan Schmunk set up Travis Granbois’ first of two goals on the night, but Jaydon Merritt responded twice for Williams Lake later in the first period to take a 2-1 lead.

The second period mirrored the first 20 minutes of play with the Regals scoring early (Josh Gray, from Mike Behan) and the Stampeders replying with a pair from one player (Luke Bateman), who scored twice in a span of 40 seconds to give his team a 4-2 lead entering the final frame.

Williams Lake held Powell River at bay to start the third period, until Long’s one-timer from the point (from Granbois and Riley Billy) on a power play found the top corner of the net to cut the deficit in half. Stampeders responded on their own power play minutes later, restoring a two-goal lead at 5-3 and momentarily quieting the crowd.

“As a coaching staff, you are in full cheerleading mode at that point, trying to stay positive that we can come back,” said Regals' coach Tod English.

Billy was also involved in the next Regals’ goal, combining with Schmunk to knock the puck loose behind the net and send it out front to Granbois, whose spinning shot found the back of the net. The hosts continued pressing for a tying goal and were rewarded when Gavin Mastrodonato’s cross-crease pass, initially picked up by Bekkam Willis, whose shot was stopped, was knocked in by Brett Kinley with 2:38 remaining in the game, setting the stage for Findlater’s heroics just over a minute later.

“I am sure everyone was in disbelief; we were witnessing a game that could be as memorable as it gets,” added English. “When Hunter buried the winner with 1:01 on the clock, I had not heard a building that loud for a very long time. And what a moment, a semi-final win in our fourth game in four days, plus two overtime periods on day one.”

Laszlo Tamasik was the winning goaltender, turning aside 32 shots. Zack Straza made 42 saves for Williams Lake. It was the second meeting in 24 hours for the two teams, who met in the final game of the round-robin on March 28.

After the 6-5 victory, English called it a “heart and soul win.”

“It was one of our coaching staff’s proudest moments as Regals,” he added, sharing his feelings and those of assistant coaches Scott Mastrodonato, Joe Calderone, Don Gagne and Rick McLaren, the latter of which is also playing in the tournament.

Terrace River Kings, who finished atop the round-robin standings, will meet Powell River at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 30, with the coveted Coy Cup on the line.

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