Friday night in McCall, after he presented the championship trophy which bears his name to the Idaho Junior Steelheads for the fifth time in six years, Western States Hockey League founder Don Thorne said the team and organization was “almost like a dynasty.”
Coach John Olver’s Junior Steelheads earned a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Junior Eagles, sweeping the best of five series in three games with all decided by one goal.
Friday’s win wasn’t easy, as the feisty Eagles fought back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game four minutes and 18 seconds into the third period.
Idaho center Kyle Williams, voted the tournament Most Valuable Player, scored the game-winning goal, his third of the game, seven minutes and 13 seconds into the period, and the Junior Steelheads withstood another furious comeback attempt by Colorado to claim the Thorne Cup for the second year in a row.
Williams, the third-year Junior Steelhead from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, had four game-winning goals during the playoff run, including two in overtime.
For Olver, it was his fifth consecutive WSHL league title as head coach and general manager.
“This was the first time that we felt like we were the underdogs heading into the finals. Colorado is a class organization, and we have tremendous respect for their coaches and players.
“Playing teams of the caliber of Missoula, Long Beach, and Colorado was by far our toughest road to the Thorne Cup yet. This is a real testament to the growth,development, and future of the WSHL.”
Williams led off the scoring just one minute and 35 seconds into the game, assisted by Colton Fletcher, and it proved to be the only goal in the opening period.
One minute and 16 seconds into the second period, Williams assisted on Idaho’s second goal, a power play tally by Hunter Lester. Nikita Zgirskis also got an assist.
Halfway into the period, Williams notched his second goal, with Lester drawing an assist.
Defenseman Jack York then gave Idaho a 4-0 lead on a spectacular goal, picking up the puck at center ice, skating through and around several players, then beating Eagles goaltender Austin Piquette. York did all the work himself; the goal was unassisted.
Colorado, only a third year team in the WSHL, then began another of their patented comebacks.
Levi Weber got the Eagles on the scoreboard with a goal just 21 seconds after York’s tally for Idaho. Riley Roberts and Mac Colasimone were the assist men.
With just 25 seconds left in the period, the Eagles of Coach Steve Haddon got their second goal, Tanner Ulland scoring after a feed from Justin Van Buskirk.
The Eagles continued the assault early in the third period, with Trent Hines getting an unassisted goal one minute and five seconds into the last regulation period.
Colasimone tied the game at 4-4 with his goal for Colorado four minutes and 18 seconds in, Weber and Brad Campbell getting assists.
Less than three minutes later, Williams scored his game-winner.
Sergei Pysarenko, voted the Most Valuable Goaltender in the Final Four, won his seventh game of the playoffs, making 36 saves of Colorado’s 40 shots on goal.
Piquette made 13 saves for the Eagles before being replaced in net by Braden Lajoie with 8:37 to go in the second period.
Lajoie earned six saves during the rest of the period and five in the third period, but surrendered the championship-clinching goal to the Junior Steelheads, who took 29 shots in all.
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