Turner's OT goal lifts Blazers to Cascade Cup Championship


BELLINGHAM - The Cascade Cup Championship couldn't have had a more fitting end.

After 311 minutes and 47 seconds, the series was still tied, Game 5 was in overtime and both teams grew fatigued of the long, fierce battle.

Then the Blazers' Micky Turner skated into the offensive zone and fired a shot. It flew past Warriors goaltender Forrest Savel and into the net.

Bellingham players jumped off the bench, the skaters on the ice threw down their sticks and gloves, fans pounded the glass.

The Blazers won 6-5 and it was time to raise the Cascade Cup for the second straight year.

"It's hard to put into words," Blazers coach Mark Collins said. "It's jubilation, it's relief. It was a thrill."

Overtime was controlled by the Blazers. They kept the puck in the offensive zone the majority of the time and almost scored four minutes into extra time, but Northern Pacific Hockey League's offensive MVP, Cody Rich, hit the post on a shot from eight feet out.

Rich making a shot to win would have been no surprise. The best players are supposed to step up in the biggest games and the Bellingham Blazers top players had no problem doing that in the five-game series.

The first line for the Blazers - Rich, Mason Wade, Gerin Hohl, Kacey Walker and Scott Hansen - took the reins throughout the series.

The five players combined for 14 of the Blazers' 19 goals. They also scored 28 of Bellingham's 43 points.

No contest was bigger than Game 5 and the Blazers' stars didn't disappoint. But it was Boris Knyazev who was easily the most impressive player on the ice. He had 5 points, including 2 goals and 3 assists, one of which was to Turner on the game-winning goal.

"He gets better every time I see him," Collins said of Knyazev. "It's really cool to see. He competes, he can play with anyone, he has the vision. The coaches and I had feeling, let's get (Wade and Rich) going with Boris (Knyazev)."

It looked like the Blazers would win in regulation after entering the third period with a 5-3 lead.

But the Warriors opened the third with a shorthanded goal 18 seconds in, killing any momentum the Blazers gained at the end of the second.

Then West Sound tied it up nine minutes in with a shot from long range.

The Warriors looked dangerous on several possessions after the goal, but it was the Blazers with the final shot in regulation.

Hohl got open in front of the net with 5.3 seconds but Savel made the save to send the game into overtime.

"We were calm," Collins said of his team's attitude going into the extra period. "We knew what we had to do and we knew we could do it."

The game started in the Blazers favor as well, as they jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first.

Four minutes into the game, Knyazev took a pass in the slot from Walker, maneuvered himself into good scoring position and put it past Warriors goaltender Savel to take the early lead.

"We just prepared well," Walker said. "We try to get it as close as we can to all the wins in the season, but today we just let our words do the preparation."

Rich got in on the scoring eight minutes later when he took a pass across the crease from Hohl and one-timed it to extend the lead to two.

The Warriors narrowed the gap with 2:12 left in the period when a lofted dump-in managed to bounce over the head of Blazers goalie Robert MacDonald.

West Sound took over the early part of the second and capitalized 51 seconds in when they took advantage of a mistimed line change by the Blazers to even the score.

The Warriors took the lead with 13:52 to go in the period but the Blazers were resilient.

With increased pressure on the forecheck, Knyazev intercepted a pass in the Blazers offensive zone and fed it to Bailey Shaver who tied the game up at 3-3.

Thirty seconds later, Micky Turner made almost an identical play but his shot hit the post.

The score remained even until Knyazev scored his second goal of the game with 6:37 left in the period when he knocked the puck in after a scrum in front of the net.

Wade extended the lead to two with 2:40 left in a period in which the Blazers outshot the Warriors 26-13.

It's the second year the Blazers had to beat the Warriors for the league title. Both series went to Game 5.

The Bellingham Blazers joined the NPHL only two years ago and they already have two championships to their name.

The Blazers move on to the USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Championships, which start on April 3 in Simsky, Conn.

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