Edmundston-based Blizzard junior hockey team wins Maritime championship

EDMUNDSTON, New Brunswick — In its very first season in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, the Edmundston Blizzard made history Tuesday night defeating the Yarmouth Mariners on their home ice in Nova Scotia 5-2 to win the league playoff championship.

The Blizzard won the final series 4-2.

After finishing first overall in the regular season standings with 36 wins, 10 losses and 4 overtime defeats for 76 points, Ryan Salvis’ players successively eliminated the Miramichi Timberwolves in four straight playoff games and dispatched the Summerside Western Capitals 4 games to 3, before meeting the Mariners.

The Blizzard received incredible support from its supporters in its first season. The last 17 games played at the Jean-Daigle Centre in Edmundston were sold out with more than 2,700 spectators at each game. About 800 fans gathered at the Jean-Daigle Centre to watch Tuesday’s game on the big screen.

The players arrived very relaxed in Yarmouth after taking a 55-minute chartered flight instead of a long 12-hour bus ride. The Blizzard took control of the game from the beginning, scoring the first goal at 12:45 of the first period and maintained the lead the rest of the way.

Francis Asselin once again was outstanding in front of the Blizzard net, stopping 35 of 37 shots. His rival Leif Hertz faced 33 shots.

Gabriel Vanier opened the scoring in the first period by grabbing a loose puck in front of Hertz who was lying on the ice. Liam Leonard and Dany Coulombe picked up the assists.

Both teams opened up in the second period when 5 goals were scored. During a two-man advantage, Alexandre Jacob deflected a fine pass from Alexandre Bernier at 1:07 to put the Blizzard ahead 2-0. Logan Johnston also had an assist. Yarmouth fought back when Brent Broaders beat Asselin at 2:54. But Yarmouth’s celebrations were short-lived as Johnston scored again to give the Blizzard a two-goal lead (3-1). The Mariners narrowed the gap with Aaron Maillet making it 3-2 at 8:24. Then Liam Leonard scored at 16:03, giving the Blizzard a 4-2 lead heading into the dressing room after two periods. Vanier had an assist on the fourth goal.

The Blizzard continued to attack in the third, though neither team scored until three seconds before the end of the game when Kyle Ward knocked the puck into an empty net to give the Blizzard a 5-2 win and the championship.

Kyle Ward, who scored six game-winning goals on the season, was named the playoffs’ most valuable player. Ward finished first in goals (15) and points (22).

The Blizzard will enjoy a week of rest before representing the Maritimes in the Eastern Canadian Championship, the Fred Page Cup, to be held in Ottawa, May 2-6. Also competing will be the champions of the Quebec AAA Junior Hockey League, the Collège Français of Longueuil; the CCHL champions and tournament hosts, the Ottawa Junior Senators; and the CCHL runners-up, the Carleton Place Canadians.

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