To say the Exploits Valley High Eagles had a good season would be an understatement.
"This was everything we hoped for. This was a dream season," said Eagles captain Brandon Jewer.
Jewer is in his final year of high school, along with five other of his teammates, and the lot of them could not have asked for a better season to wrap up their high school hockey careers.
Their 8-6 home-ice win Wednesday night against the Gander Collegiate Concordes sealed their Central Newfoundland High School Hockey League Championship title. The Eagles took the first game in the best of three series with a score of 5-0 the night before in Gander.
The Eagles dominated the season, winning virtually all their games.
But on Wednesday, the Concordes were not giving it up without a fight.
By the time clock ran out on the first period, the Eagles were up 3-1 against their opponents, but halfway through the second was when the game really started.
The rest of the match would have the healthy crowd that came out to the Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium to support the teams at the edge of their seats. At 7:36 into the second Gander scored three quick goals on EVH goalie Jordan Bennett in just two minutes, snatching the lead from the home team.
The Eagles responded quickly and evened the score at 11 minutes, but the Concordes took the lead again just seconds later. EVH scored one more time with under two minutes left in the second, making the score going into the final period tied at 5-5.
The Eagles wasted little time taking control of the scoreboard in the third, belting out two goals in the first two minutes of the game. Gander Collegiate managed to slip one more past the Eagles defense at 2:38, but the Eagles responded with another, not even a minute later. The remainder of the game was scoreless, but both teams pushed hard for the win right up to the final seconds, knowing that with only a two-point lead, the game wasn't over until the buzzer sounded. The clock ran out with a score of 8-6 for the Eagles.
"The first period we just took it to them hard, came out strong and scored our three goals. In the second period we thought 'well we've got this game won' and slacked off a little bit, but they came back hard. They wanted it," said Jewer. "In the third period we came out and said we're winning this; there's no way we're playing another game. We came out and played hard, and it turned in our favour."
With their the latest league title to add to their trophy and banner collection, the EVH boys managed to take an amazing four championship titles this season. They swept the Donnini's Invitational High School Hockey tournament in Grand Falls-Windsor, went undefeated in the CanLan Ice Sports tournament in Toronto, as well as, for the second year in a row, took the 4A Don Cherry Cup championship in St. John's.
Despite all the glory of a great season, Jewer said the highlight for the team is always playing on home ice. He said they always have such a great turnout at games, and estimates around 700 people came out to cheer on the team on Wednesday.
Jewer said he thinks a variety of factors contributed to the unforgettable season.
"As a team we've been playing together for 13 years now and we really came together this year and made it happen. There was a lot of dedication to the team, and everyone stayed behind and backed each other up," said Jewer. "But we could play those 30 games again and we'd never win them like that again, there's just no way."
Eagles manager Roger Budgell said he thinks teamwork and leadership of the senior players, as well as a great coaching staff made for the great season.
"I'm just so proud of these players, and so delighted about the season," said Budgell, beaming after the win.
Wednesday's game was the last game of the season for the team, and with many of the players going off to peruse their post secondary dreams, the last game they will ever play as a high school team.
Jewer said with a great core group of younger players, and a great coaching staff that will be returning next year, the team will be in good shape to carry on the legacy.
"It was the best year of hockey I've ever had," said Jewer. "It was the best year I think any of us has ever had."