One year ago, the Yorkton Terriers came within a single win, and a single goal, of a trip to the RBC Cup, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Brooks Bandits, the eventual national champions, in the play-in game at the Western Canada Cup.
Twelve months later, they got that win, plus a few more, and find themselves playing for Canada’s National Junior A Championship, with many of the same players in their cast of characters.
“We’re fortunate to have guys that won a championship last year,” said Terriers head coach Trent Cassan. “Having all of our captains back and having our goaltender back has been huge for us.”
Using its close call from 2013 as motivation, Yorkton ran roughshod over the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in 2013-14, winning its first SJHL regular season championship since 1995-96.
The Terriers scored more goals than any other SJHL team, allowed fewer and had the league’s top power play, but Cassan said the offence isn’t necessarily the driving force behind Yorkton’s success.
“I know we have some top-end guys that can score, but we’ve built our team on a lot of balance; guys that can skate and have a lot of size,” he said. “During the regular season we tried as much as we can to roll four lines, and tried to rely as much as we can on the improvement and growth from the guys we’ve had with us all year.”
The Terriers dropped just two of 14 playoff games to defend their SJHL title, although they went to overtime in four of five games against Humboldt, including a combined five extra periods in the first two.
But those games, and those wins, helped Yorkton forge the “no fear” mentality that has helped it get to where it is now – just a single win away from an RBC Cup title after an 0-2 start to the tournament.
“When you get into that overtime it can really go either way, and I think at that point guys really started to play without a fear of losing,” Cassan said. “If you’re afraid to make mistakes and have your season end, you can tense up pretty quick.”
It has been Game 7 since Wednesday for Yorkton, which played win-or-go-home games in its last two preliminary round contests, as well as its semifinal, but plays on in search of the franchise’s first national championship.
What would it mean for Yorkton, a community with so much Junior A tradition, to finally win the RBC Cup?
“It’s a community-owned team,” Cassan said. “You see the fans, the support we’ve had all season, through the playoffs, at Dauphin in the Western Canada Cup, and we’ve had really good support out here too. We have pride where we come from – pride to represent Yorkton and the province of Saskatchewan and the SJHL, and we really want to bring an RBC Cup back home to the province of Saskatchewan and city of Yorkton.”
HOW THEY GOT TO VERNON
Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Notre Dame 4-1 (5-1, 1-2, 5-2, 3-2 OT, 7-1)
Semifinal: defeated Humboldt 4-1 (5-6 3OT, 3-2 2OT, 6-5, 4-3 OT, 2-1 OT)
SJHL championship: defeated Melville 4-0 (2-1 OT, 2-1 2OT, 3-1, 4-0)
Western Canada Cup
Preliminary round: 2-2, second place (lost to Winnipeg 3-1, defeated Dauphin 8-6, lost to Spruce Grove 3-2 OT, defeated Coquitlam 4-1)
Championship game: defeated Dauphin 5-4
Record: 37-12-7 (1st in SJHL)
Goals For: 186 (1st in SJHL)
Goals Against: 125 (1st in SJHL)
Power Play: 51 for 233 (21.9% - 1st in SJHL)
Penalty Killing: 197 of 234 (84.2% - 4th in SJHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 7 (Jan. 24-Feb. 8)
Top 3 Scorers:
Playoff Record: 15-4
Goals For: 72
Goals Against: 45
Power Play: 17 for 79 (21.5%)
Penalty Killing: 61 of 71 (85.9%)
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2006 – Yorkton Terriers | 2-4 | 12GF 24GA | runners-up
1999 – Yorkton Terriers | 3-2 | 17GF 14GA | fourth place
1996 – Yorkton Terriers | 1-4 | 15GF 26GA | fourth place
1991 – Yorkton Terriers | 3-2 | 27GF 22GA | third place
PLAYERS TO WATCH
smart player … always finds open space … effective when playing down low … does the little things well … difficult to knock off the puck … soft but strong hands … reaches top speed quickly
an on-ice general … controls the pace of the game … makes a good first pass … moves the puck well on the PP … very mobile … competes physically … likes to take away space … good hockey sense
Mr. Consistency … can beat defenders with ease … works hard without the puck … always in good position … good offensive anticipation … quick release … good one-on-one skill set ... good speed
Brett Boehm – University of Minnesota Duluth (2014-15)
Riley Hunt – Harvard University (2015-16)
Brady Norrish – Rochester Institute of Technology (2014-15)
Chase Norrish – Rochester Institute of Technology (2014-15)