By Greg Price
Taber peewee “AA” Golden Suns (28-4-4) have emerged as South Conference champions, after a nail-biting overtime win against Wheatland Braves (26-7-3) on Sunday in South Central Alberta Hockey League play.
It was the top two teams left standing after tournament play, with plenty of dramatics for the Golden Suns, requiring a short-handed tally by Colby Gulliver to send the game into the extra period, before Cage Smith sent local fans into a frenzy with the game-winner in Strathmore on Sunday.
“The difference for the most part for two periods, we almost were able to keep throwing lines out there. They have the league leading scorer (Kyle McDonough) on their team and they played the crap out of him,” said Kevin Serfas, head coach of the Taber peewee “AA” Golden Suns. “We were trying to line match that kid, but he was on the ice all the time. We saved our guys towards the end and they burnt theirs out. It was a full team effort, especially in the semifinal and final. After the round-robin, I challenged everyone to try and steer the bus with no passengers and they all stepped up to the challenge.”
Gulliver and Smith both had two goals in the game, with Kayden Yeaman notching a single. Yeaman also drew three assists. Bryan Noble earned the win in net, facing 35 shots on goal.
“We were up and we were down and the last five minutes of the game (in regulation), we probably came close three times to getting the game winner. I told the boys going into overtime, we are all over them and we just got to keep pushing and something good is going to happen,” said Serfas. “We played in Cochrane in a tournament in November and we got to the final and were tied after regulation and lost that game. That was something that helped us win that game (Sunday). The boys had already been through it losing a championship game in overtime and they had that taste in their mouth that they didn’t want to have again.”
Earlier, the Golden Suns upended Cranbrook Wings 6-4 in the semifinal.
Smith scored two goals and Yeaman, Jarret McNeill, Barrett Van Nistelrooy and Gulliver had singles. Noble faced 23 shots in the win.
The South Conference championship now has the Golden Suns batting for league-wide bragging rights, as they are set to do battle with North Conference champion Olds Grizzlys. The Golden Suns have played the Grizzlys three times this year, all before Christmas, having beat them every time. Nevertheless Serfas and his team are taking nothing for granted, especially given how the unexpected happened in the North where powerhouse Bow Valley Timberwolves (28-2-4) were defeated in its semifinal in overtime.
“Olds is a highly-skilled team with some top-end scorers. We match up really well against them, but by no means do I think this is a cake walk , but we have a really good chance,” said Serfas. “Bow Valley losing in overtime really opened up an opportunity for us, matching up better against Olds than we did Bow Valley. Bow Valley had only lost one game all year and their second loss was in the semifinal. Anything can happen in playoffs.”
As accomplished as the Taber peewee “AA” Golden Suns have been this year, Serfas has cautioned his kids that they are back to the ground level when the league championship best-of-three series starts this Thursday in Taber.
“The fact we have beat Olds in the past means nothing, the fact we won league play before the tournament meant nothing. Everything is forgotten, especially if you lose. No one is going to remember you won the south or had the most points in the league, it’s what have you done today and tomorrow,” said Serfas.
The Golden Suns battle Olds Grizzlys on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at the Taber Arena to start its three-game league championship series. If a Game 3 is necessary, it will be played back at the Taber Arena on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“We would love to see that barn packed on Thursday though. This is not a small accomplishment by any means. If you look at the SCAHL banners hanging in the rink in Taber, there’s not many of them,” said Serfas. “The last banner that was hung there was back in 2008/2009. If we can get that building packed, it will be a really good hockey game.”