Annual match as entertaining as ever
© Derek Montague
Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell presents the Trapper's Cup to North West River Captain Al Michelin
Members of a team from North West River redeemed themselves against their lifetime rivals from Happy Valley-Goose Bay at this year’s Trapper’s Cup.
The boys from Striver were eager to win the annual match, after letting the cup slip out of their hands last year. In the 2013 hockey game, North West River held a 6-4 lead in the third period, but Happy Valley-Goose Bay put on an offensive onslaught late in the frame, and would end up winning 8-7.
North West River laced up a good, experienced squad for the 2014 Trapper’s Cup, an “old timer’s” game for men aged 35 and up.
Despite having a population of less than 600, they managed to ice 15 players, four more than Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s roster.
North West River came out flying in the first period and, just over one minute into the frame, Trapper’s Cup veteran Doug Blake scored on a bank shot to take a 1-0 lead.
The Trapper’s Cup is usually a high-scoring affair, but both goalies, Larry Pottle of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Carl McLean of North West River, played outstanding through the first half of the game. By the end of two periods the score was only 2-1 in favour of North West River.
The main reason for the low score was the play of Pottle between the pipes. He faced more shots than McLean, but kept making one great save after another to keep the score close.
After two periods, Pottle had stopped two clear-cut breakaways and made several glove saves; snatching the puck with Roy-like reflexes.
Amazingly, this was Pottle’s first time playing goalie in more than a decade.
“It felt good, hard to move at first. A little nervous, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Pottle.
“The first goal was a bank shot off the pad … thinking this could be long and embarrassing game, but we all settled in.”
It was anybody’s game going into the third period. But, less than six minutes in, North West River’s Al Michelin made a dazzling end-to-end rush, scoring on his backhand after making a deke move.
The goal brought the crowd to its feet and even impressed Michelin’s own teammates. For Scott Neilsen, a Trapper’s Cup rookie with North West River, seeing the hockey veteran skate so smoothly made for some great entertainment.
“I really loved watching Al Michelin fly around the ice. That's what I'm shooting for when I'm 70. I got 30 years to try and get as good as he,” said Neilsen.
“Would have been a different game without him.”
Harry Lucci then scored two goals in under a minute to give North West River a commanding 5-1 lead. But, just like in past years, Happy Valley-Goose Bay saved their best performance for late in the game.
Needing four goals to tie, they began hemming North West River in their own zone with a relentless forecheck. Halfway through the period, Gerry Dyson netted his second of the game, cutting North West River’s lead to three.
Then, in the final five minutes of the game, Glenn Pittman, who had been driving the net hard all night long, finally scored to make it a two-goal game.
Hopes of a late-game comeback were crushed, however, when Rod Beals made it 6-3 less than a minute later.
Although winning the cup is sweet, the friendship and laughter is what makes the game such an anticipated event. For many of these players, the Cup will be the only hockey game they play all year, which means everyone needs a sense of humour when stepping onto the ice.
“I forgot to put my suspenders over my shoulders after the first (period), a little embarrassing when pants started to fall down,” recalled Pottle.
It’s not just essential equipment players tend to forget at the Trapper’s Cup. Sometimes they don’t even notice their own teammates are missing, such was the case when Dave Matthews received a penalty in the third period.
“Wallace said that he didn't notice (Dave) was gone until he came back to the bench after the penalty. They were on the same line,” said Neilsen.
“Although I should point out that before that, Dave scored a goal.”