Terry Yake never won a Stanley Cup in his decade of NHL experience.
On Saturday night, he won an Allan Cup in his first attempt, helping the Southeast Prairie Thunder from Steinbach, Man., capture the senior AAA national championship.
“I had two minor-league championships and a nice championship over in Switzerland, but they never get old, no matter what level you're at,” Yake said after the Thunder scored three unanswered goals in the third period of Saturday's final to prevail 4-1 over the Rosetown, Sask., Redwings. “Considering this is as good a hockey as you can play for senior in Canada, it still feels great.”
Now 43 years old, Yake was asked whether this Allan Cup would be his swan song.
“I think I went out on top a long time ago, but this has just been a lot of fun,” he said with a laugh, having scored what stood up as the winner in Friday's 7-2 semifinal victory over the Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Cataracts for his only goal and point of the tournament.
“It was just an honour to be here, and we did exactly what we came for and that's to hoist that trophy. . . . If I can do it at 44, you never say never. We'll see, if they call next year, I might have to help defend the title.”
Brad Purdie scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Thunder held on for the franchise's first Allan Cup championship.
Purdie took a drop pass on a 3-on-2 rush from linemate Devon Leblanc and snapped a shot through Rosetown goaltender Jeff Harvey at 8:48. Southeast's stifling defence made that lead stand up to complete an undefeated tournament that also included a 2-1 round-robin win over Rosetown on Monday.
In Saturday's rematch, Anders Strome added an insurance marker with just over three minutes left in regulation. Leblanc, the tournament MVP, sealed Southeast's win with an empty-net goal to spoil Rosetown's Allan Cup debut.
Tim Plett had opened the scoring for Southeast in the first period, and goaltender Justin Harris was solid throughout, finishing with 32 saves.
“We just kept reassuring the guys, get back to our game plan,” said Thunder coach Jamie Leach. “In the end, they put it together and we had a solid third period. We knew Rosetown was going to get tired (playing its fourth game in as many days) and that our guys still had some juice left in them, and we took advantage of it.”
This was Leach's third Allan Cup championship, but his first as a coach. He previously won two titles as a player — in 2003 with the Ile-des-Chenes, Man., North Stars, and in 2006 with the Powell River, B.C., Regals.
Leach was also a former teammate of Yake's with the Hartford Whalers in 1992-93, and helped recruit the veteran for this championship run.
For some Thunder players, though, the fourth time was a charm. Southeast was making its fourth straight Allan Cup appearance, and erased painful memories of losing the 2009 final as tournament hosts, falling 4-3 in double overtime to the Bentley, Alta., Generals.
J.J. Hunter replied for Rosetown, scoring the only goal of the second period, while Harvey stopped 25 of 28 shots in defeat. The Redwings, making the jump to AAA provincials this season from their tier-II league, advanced to the final by beating the host Lloydminster Border Kings 5-1 in Friday's other semifinal.
“There's a lot that you can take from an experience like this,” Hunter said. “You dream of coming to play for a national championship and that's pretty special.
“We battled hard all tournament long, but we came up against a great team. They play a stingy defensive game and don't give you a whole lot, and, at the end of the day, it's a mistake on one side or the other that ends up costing or winning you a championship. Unfortunately, tonight we were on the wrong end of that.”