Years of frustration were cleaned away in one magical night. The Grande Prairie JDA Kings can finally claim hockey royalty after being crowned Northwest Junior Hockey League Champions for the first time ever.
It’s been a long time coming but it was well worth the wait.
As the final seconds ticked down the party began as Grande Prairie cruised to a 5 to 1 series clinching victory over the North Peace Navigators. Having handed the Kings two straight losses in games 4 and 5 Grande Prairie wasn’t to be denied in game 6 and as the horn sounded at the Baytex Energy Centre the bench erupted and before long team captain Devin Bell was hoisting the championship trophy above his head.
For many parents, fans, staff members, coaches and players it was a moment they dreamed of seeing when the season began back in September. Following a season of many ups and downs the team accomplished something many had predicted from the beginning. Still, it didn’t come easy.
Grande Prairie was near perfect on the evening and when they had to be the players who led the charge all season were there Tuesday night to cement the deal.
Leading scorers Lyndin Lewis and Nolan Trudeau led the way offensively. Both combined for seven points. The biggest story of the night belonged to the Kings defensive game. Games 4 and 5 it was the Navigators powerplay that was turning the tide but tonight Grande Prairie stymied them at every opportunity. Peace River would go 0 for 7 on the evening thanks in large part to terrific goaltending from starter Sky Buller and some tenacious play from Kings forward Adam Hodge.
The Navigators were riding a wave a momentum and looked to become the first team to force a game 7 in an NWJHL final after trailing 3-0 in the series but game 6 highlighted once more why the task of coming back from being down that far is so daunting. There’s little room for error, bad bounces or bad luck.
As the final seconds ticked down the large contigent of Kings fans along with all the players readied themselves for action with a steady dose of air horns filling the Baytex arena.
Finally as the scoreboard hit zero and the Kings smothering Buller the only thing left was for Bell to take centre stage.
After the captain received the championship trophy from commissioner Al Spence and hoisted it in the air it was a fitting scene as he was one of a handful of players the previous season who Grande Prairie built around in hopes of capturing their first NWJHL championship.
They did it as a team and it takes a team to win a championship.
Following a record breaking 32 and 3 regular season the Kings followed that up with an 11 and 3 playoff run.
In a short time Grande Prairie has come along way. Two years ago the ownership group garnished the Wheelers name and changed the organization from top to bottom. Low and behold they finally have their first NWJHL Championship.
It’s been along time coming but now the Kings have finally been crowned NWJHL Champions.
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