The game came down to the last period, any shot that got through would have altered fate 180 degrees, but with less than five minutes to play, the Quesnel Goldpanners put one in and then hung on to defeat Sweden and bring home the CARHA Cup for the 50-plus division.
The Canadian Amateur Recreational Hockey Association is one of the most prized leagues in Canada, only holding their championships every four years like the Olympics. In order to play at the championships, a team has to place first or second at one of CARHA’s sanctioned tournaments, and many of those Top 2 finishers are international teams.
This was the first year the event had been held since COVID lockdowns.
The Goldpanners team has entered the past four CARHA championships, but this time there was something special in the air and on the ice. It was their first time playing in the 50-plus division, and they felt hungry.
“In the first game, we played Ladner and beat them 6-5 or 7-6, it was a close high-scoring game,” said Goldpanners primary organizer Bruce Broughton, explaining their path to gold. “Then we played (HC Legion) Finland and I was surprised because they usually have a really strong team, but not this time, and we beat them 8-0. And then the other team was from Ontario and we beat them 5-1.
“That meant we won our side of the round-robin tournament, so we took on the second place team from the other pool, for our first playoff game, which happened to be a team from Surrey (the Black Sheep) and we beat then 2-1 in the semi-final.
“Sweden won their game 3-1 in their semi-final, so that’s who we went up against in the final game.”
It was a match for the ages, against the Alta Tigers from Sweden. The Goldpanners knew that Sweden typically ices a formidable team, no matter which club they are.
“The Sweden game, we played our hearts out, and it could have gone either way, but we happened to get a couple of good bounces,” Broughton said. “The first goal we scored halfway through the second period, and they tied it right at the end of the second period. We scored our second goal with 4:44 left in the third and we managed to hang on for the 2-1 win. The last few minutes were nuts. Our goalie stood on his head and we played really well defensively. It was pretty amazing. That go-ahead goal was pretty sweet. It was scored by Colin Keis, a beautiful goal.”
Keis was sent in on a breakaway by a pass from Tony Christie. Keis faked to his left and went upstairs for the game winner. After that it was a matter of goaltender Gary Perry (who is 46, but goalies have a five-year exemption buffer in the 50-plus division) shutting the door and the Goldpanner defensive systems clearing the puck for the final few minutes.
Keis is the father of Quesnel Kangaroos forward Ryan Keis who played a big role in the Roos win of the Coy Cup on home ice, so the two of them won major hockey trophies in the same week, first father and then son.
The whole Goldpanners team joked that they were insufferable with their families upon returning from their tournament in Richmond, “of course they think we always were anyway,” said Broughton, so the Roos needed to win the Coy just to balance things again.
“This time there was 110 teams,” at the CARHA championships, said Broughton. “The biggest one we’ve been at had 167 teams. This was smaller because of coming back from COVID and the Russians were not allowed to come. There are usually several Russian teams there.”
The Goldpanners is a team comprised almost entirely of Quesnel players, who get together in that uniform about once a week during hockey season, but many of them also play on other teams in other local rec leagues. For the CARHA tournament they picked up a Williams Lake player they know, and also one from Smithers.
“A lot of us have played a lot of hockey, and some have played some pretty good hockey, like Junior and stuff like that,” Broughton said.
Their next challenge is coming up in August when they plan to enter the 2023 BC Senior Games. They came second last year at that tournament. It’s a 55-plus event, so some of the younger Goldpanners will have to sit this one out and some older ones brought in.
Playing in your golden years of hockey is a lot sweeter when there’s some golden hardware coming home with you. The CARHA trophy is on display at West Central Pipe.
The golden team:
Back row, L to R: Blake McBride, Paul DeJong, Tony Christie, Richard Lindstrom, Glenn Saretsky, Don McMartin, Todd Gryschuk
Front row, L to R: Vinnie Kozuki, Colin Keis, Scott Gibbs, Lee Naith, Gary Perry
On ice: Bruce Broughton