VERNON, BC — Chase Norrish didn’t want his season, or his junior hockey career, to end one game short of the Canadian Junior A Championship game.
Norrish scored the winning goal and added a key assist as the Yorkton Terriers doubled the host Vernon Vipers 6-3 in a semifinal contest at the RBC Cup Saturday.
The Saskatchewan representatives will meet Ontario’s Carleton Place Canadians — who advanced with an upset comeback 4-3 win over the Dauphin Kings later Saturday — in the final Sunday.
Both Yorkton and Carleton Place are seeking their first Canadian championship.
“It means quite a lot to the guys, I guess, going to the last game that you can possibly play this season,” said Norrish.
Norris, a 21-year-old Strongfield, Sask., native, will see his junior eligibility expire Sunday before he heads off to play U.S. college hockey next season at Rochester Institute of Technology.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Norrish of his goal and his assist on the goal that put Yorkton ahead to stay. “I just go out and play hockey. a A lot of hard work went into this team, and it’s a great feeling to get to the next step.”
Norrish scored at 11:39 of the second period, giving the Terriers a 4-2 lead before Yorkton scored two empty-netters in the final two minutes of the game, to ensure their third straight win after starting the tournament 0-2.
“We don’t like to be put in a spot where we’re going to be eliminated,” said Norrish. “It kind of sticks in some guys.”
Daylan Gatzke led Yorkton with two goals, with one going into an empty net, as the Terriers thwarted Vernon’s attempt at a desperate rally. Tanner Lishchynsky, Dylan Johnson and Tayler Thompson, into an empty net, also scored for Yorkton. Goaltender Kale Thomson made 34 saves.
Brett Mulcahy, Michael McNicholas and Dexter Dancs replied for the Vipers, who enjoyed a 37-31 edge in shots.
The Terriers scored on one of five power plays while the Vipers converted on two of six. Vernon overcame an early 2-0 deficit to create a 2-2 tie early in the second period. But Yorkton’s defence remained tight while killing a pair of penalties, including a Vernon two-man advantage for 26 seconds, in the third.
“Right now, it’s deflating and a pretty emotional group in (the dressing room), because they have a loot of pride and they wanted to bring a seventh national title to the town of Vernon,” said Vipers coach Jason Williamson.
Johnson put the Terriers ahead 3-2 at 8:57 of the second period as he deflected in Norrish’s wrist shot.
Vernon goaltender Austin Smith, who was replaced by Danny Todosychuk after Norrish’s goal, allowed four goals on 16 shots. The goaltending change had an effect on the Vipers as Dancs scored during a scramble only 59 seconds later.
“We played great when we were desperate, and obviously, we didn’t want to go down two goals,” said Dancs. “But it happened and we fought back to make it 2-2, and (the win) didn’t come for us.”
Later, Dylan Gareau’s goal on a one-timer at 10:43 of the third period gave Carleton Place the win as the fourth-place Canadians upset first-place Dauphin.
The upset shocked Carleton Place coach Jason Clarke, who says he never envisioned that his team would reach the Canadian final when the season began nine months ago.
“We didn’t play a very good game for the first 40 minutes, and in the third period, we really showed what kind of hockey club we can be,” he said.
The Ottawa-area victors outshot Dauphin 16-2 in the final frame. But after taking a 1-0 lead, the Canadians had to overcome 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to forge a 3-3 tie.
“The guys played great,” said Carleton Place goaltender Guillaume Therien. “I struggled in the first, for sure. But I give credit to the guys, for sure, in the third. Two shots on goal in the third? What else can I ask for?”
Anthony McVeigh led the Canadians with two goals, with the second going into an empty net in the final minute. Carleton Place got other goals from Luke Richards and Andy Sturtz, who also assisted on the winning goal.
“We knew Dauphin was a strong team,” said Sturtz. “Their goaltender (Michael Stiliadis) had an unbelievable tournament. He had a good game again today.”
Dylan Butler, Tanner Butler and Brayden Cuthbert scored for Dauphin.
“I thought the first two periods, we played well enough to win,” said Kings coach Marlin Murray. “The third period, we had a rough one. We were on our heels the whole time.”
The Canadians will attempt to beat Yorkton for a second time in the tournament. Carleton Place qualified for the playoff portion of the RBC Cup by beating the Terriers in the final round-robin game.
Notes: Norrish’s twin brother Brady also plays defence for Yorkton and will head to RIT with his sibling next season. a The Vipers last won the RBC Cup in 2010, when they earned the second of back-to-back titles. a Yorkton forward Derek Falloon is a cousin of former NHLer Pat Falloon, who was drafted second overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1991 behind Eric Lindros.