The 34th edition of the Wade Hamer Challenge Cup ended up the same way the 33rd edition did.
The only difference is how the titles were won.
St. Pat’s and Sir John Franklin high Schools renewed their friendly hostilities at the Multiplex on Wednesday with the girls game kicking things off.
St. Pat’s went in as the defending champions and came out as the champions again thanks to a 7-3 win over Sir John Franklin in a much more competitive game than one year ago.
St. Pat’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead and it was all Katie Hart as she scored all four of those unanswered markers. Sir John Franklin cut the lead in half to 4-2 but Sarah Fleming notched one late in the opening period to put more daylight between the teams.
In the final period, Taylor Catcher of Sir John Franklin scored on a drive from the point that got past St. Pat’s goaltender Kailyn Unka to narrow the gap to 5-3 but it wasn’t enough as St. Pat’s notched two more late to salt things away.
St. Pat’s extended their winning streak in the girls game to four and it was the same streak for Fleming and Hart as they’ve been a part of all four of those wins.
“It’s the best feeling in the world right now,” said Fleming after the game. “I’m so proud that we were able to get the fourth one and make everyone at our school proud.”
This was Fleming’s last Challenge Cup game and she said it’s the one game of the year she’ll miss the most but Hart will be going for the rarest of feats next year: five wins in a row. Very few have been able to do it but she’s back for Grade 12 next year and the chance is there.
“We got Sarah her sweep and now we’ll try and make it five next year,” said Hart.
In the boys game, Sir John Franklin came out strongest and opened the scoring but St. Pat’s was able to knot things up shortly after that. The opening period ended 1-1 but it could have easily been a lot worse for Sir John Franklin after some sloppy play in their own end in the final minutes of the period.
Falcons head coach Peter Curran said the talk in between periods was about being responsible.
“We needed to be more deliberate with our passes,” he said. “We were hot-potatoing the puck, especially along the wall, but to a man, they owned up to it and we talked about cleaning that up.”
It didn’t exactly look like Sir John Franklin cleaned it up as they were still coughing up the puck in their own zone early on in the final period and it came back to burn them as St. Pat’s scored two quick goals to take a 3-1 lead. Sir John Franklin closed the gap to 3-2 on the power play but St. Pat’s notched a power-play marker of their own off the stick of Austin Daniels to regain a two-goal lead.
It was desperation time on the Sir John Franklin bench as goaltender Devin Vogel was pulled with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. With the extra attacker out and two goals needed to send the game into bonus hockey, they found one to cut the deficit to 4-3. The Falcons went back on the attack and it would be Logan Cunningham who managed to stuff the puck past St. Pat’s goaltender Paul St. Cyr with 4.3 seconds remaining on the clock to tie the game and send the Multiplex into delirium.
Sir John Franklin was gifted the opportunity of all opportunities as St. Pat’s were called for two penalties back-to-back in overtime, giving the Falcons a 5-on-3 power play, which they took full advantage of as McKinley Talbot found the back of the net to give the Falcons a 5-4 sudden-death win for the ages.
“Andrew (Carr) had the puck in the corner and he passed it to me,” said Talbot. “It went off of Paul’s (St. Cyr) stick and it went in. It was a dirty goal.”
Not dirty whatsoever, added Curran.
“There’s no such thing as a dirty or garbage goal,” he said with a chuckle. “I feel bad for Paul, though. He played a great game. I knew if we didn’t score on that 5-on-3, we were gonna be in tough to get ourselves feeling like we could win it.”
With such an exciting finish, there was one question left to answer: was there any doubt that Sir John Franklin wouldn’t win it?
“Never,” said Curran. “Just believe in the process is what they say but it’s a long process when you tie the game with 4.3 seconds left. I think both games showed that the Challenge Cup is alive and well.”