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Story by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Nakusp, BC (ISN) – The Saanich Braves skated to a fourth place finish at the BC Hockey Midget Tier 4 Provincials after a brawl-marred 5-4 win over the Chetwynd Giants on Wednesday.

The Braves would get the jump early in this game and would take a 2-0 first period lead on the strength of goals by Austin Hache and Ben Tomley.

Chetwynd would have a prime opportunity to score on a breakaway at the start of the second but Saanich goaltender Taylor Findlay made a huge pad stack save to keep the lead 2-0.

The Braves would add a powerplay goal by Adrian Gagliani to jump ahead 3-0 before Chetwynd would finally respond with 14:14 left in the period to make it 3-1.

Just a few minutes later, Saanich goalie Findlay was injured and had to leave the game in favor of Jason Stewart. Taking advantage of the new goalie, Chetwynd would score two quick goals, including a power play marker with 21 seconds left, to tie the score 3-3 going to the break.

In the third, period things would get interesting. Saanich’s Robbie Rhynas would score at the 3:51 mark to put Saanich back in lead, but then the Braves would get in penalty trouble – a common theme in this tournament – and give the Giants a 5-on-3 opportunity.

During the Giants powerplay, Saanich goaltender Jason Stewart made two highlight-reel saves and after smothering the puck and on his knees, was blatantly and deliberately cross-checked in the face by Chetwynd’s Christopher Campbell (#4), knocking Stewart to the ice and chipping his tooth. This, as one might imagine with midget-aged hockey players, started a brawl as Saanich’s Ben Tomley, Lane Zerbin and Greg Solomon – whose face mask was ripped off his helmet in the melee – all came to the defense of Stewart, who also retaliated, throwing punches of his own at the Chetwynd player.

During the fracas the Chetwynd goalie skated to his own blue line and challenged Stewart to come down the ice and engage in a goalie fight and at the same time, tensions among the parents in the stands were also getting strained, but things settled down, temporarily.

When the dust had settled, all four Saanich players, including goaltender Stewart, were ejected along with four Chetwynd players and when play finally resumed Saanich’s Findlay went back in net.

Chetwynd, still on the 2-man powerplay, would then score with 10:16 remaining to tie things again at 4-4, but with 5:46 remaining the Brave’s Derek Morgan would pot the game winner, putting a nice shot by the Giants goalie.

The Giants would pull their goalie in the last minute to no avail as the Braves were able to kill the time and secure the victory, however at the final whistle, a melee ensued in the corner by the Saanich goal and another line brawl ensued with Saanich’s Robbie Rhynas, Nick Galger, Adrian Gagliani and Derek Morgan, all tangling with Chetwynd players.

All in all, the emotional contest featured 278 minutes in penalties, 148 for Saanich and 130 for Chetwynd, with a total of 16 players, 8 from each team, ejected.

While things finally settled down on the ice, they did not do so in the parking lot, where a number of Chetwynd parents felt the need to continually harass the Saanich parents about the outcome of the game, despite the fact that it was their player’s cross-check to the Saanich goalies face that started everything.

Things even escalated to the point where a Chetwynd father threatened to punch a number of Saanich parents, including one of the Saanich Mom’s, uttering, “I’ll slap you too bi#%$.” to her and “do you want one too?” to one of the fathers. At that point the Nakusp RCMP were called, but cooler heads prevailed and nothing else came of this.

This was fortunate, as in an ironic and somewhat humorous twist of fate in this neck of the woods, as everyone from both teams departed Nakusp, they all ended up on the same small ferry crossing Arrow Lake on the way to Revelstoke.

In any case, it marked the end to an interesting and event filled week for the Braves that saw them go 2-2-1 at the tournament for their fourth place finish, had a parent taken to hospital on Sunday with a medical emergency and had a player fall and break his arm in pre-game warm up prior to their third game Monday.

They are all looking forward to getting back to the relative calm of Saanich and leaving the hockey rinks behind for another season.