The Dawson Creek Junior Canucks struggled to find their offensive groove Friday night, as they lost 5-1 to the North Peace Navigators in game seven and were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Navs struck early, gaining a 2-0 lead by the end of the first, before building that to a 3-0 lead by the second intermission.
Wesley Shipton scored 3:42 into the third on the power play, giving the Canucks the hope of a comeback and avoiding their first shutout loss all season. However, North Peace answered back nearly eight minutes later to regain the three goal lead. A shorthanded empty netter capped the score at 5-1.
The Canucks were outshot 47-34, the first time in the series that they’ve allowed more than 40 shots. Matthew Ens played in net, for an injured Simon Bowyer.
While it was a tough ending, the season was still quite a success for the team. It was their most successful season in recent memory, with a 24-10-2 regular season record and 50 points, two seasons after a seven win season. It was also the first time they’ve made it to the second round since the 2010/11 season (and they were swept in four).
And it’s probably a small consolation, but they lost to probably one of the best NWJHL dynasties of recent memory — the Navs have been to the previous seven NWJHL finals, winning three straight from 2014 to 2016.
“I know that it sucks that we lost, but we have such a good group of guys, I wouldn’t change this group for anything in the world,” says Shipton. “We came up short, but there’s always next year.”
The real hard part of the loss is for the players who won’t be back next year, like captain and career Canuck Scott Fisher who wraps up his junior tenure. Still, he has few regrets.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he admits. “One of the best group of guys I’ve ever played with and some of the best five years of my life playing junior in Dawson Creek.
“I’d like to thank the whole town for backing us for the run we’ve had. I appreciate everyone.”
And it seems like they have something to build on. Assistant coach Mark Readman, who joined the staff after playing on the team on and off from 2012 to 2017, has seen how the team has developed recently.
“The atmosphere, culture, absolutely everything has been absolutely night and day since we originally started,” he explains. ““This is probably the most talented team I’ve seen here in 16 years, since last time they won a title.
“The outcome’s unfortunate, but the strides I’ve seen every single players make personally — not as players, but as people — has probably been the most gratifying experience I’ve felt as a coach so far.”
But for now, the long wait until next season begins as the Navs take on the Fort St. John Huskies in the NWJHL finals.