Fishermen claim inaugural CRJHL championship

The Selkirk Fishermen flood the ice after winning the inaugural Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship over the North Winnipeg Satelites with a 4-2 Game 6 victory at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

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WINNIPEG — Chad King has been playing hockey since he was a young boy, but the East Selkirk product had never been part of a championship-winning team.

That changed at Winnipeg’s St. James Civic Centre on April 7.

King’s fourth goal of the Capital Region Junior Hockey League playoffs 3:08 into the third period was the key insurance goal for the Selkirk Fishermen as they clinched the inagural league title with a 4-2 victory over the North Winnipeg Satelites in Game 6 of the best-of-seven championship series.

“I’m amazed, I’ve never felt this feeling in my life,” King told The Selkirk Journal. “I’ve been playing since I was four-years-old and I’ve never been close to winning anything.”

The Selkirk Fishermen captured the inaugural Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship in six games over the North Winnipeg Satelites. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

Selkirk defenceman Thomas Mironuk didn’t have too many words to describe the feeling moments after he and his teammates mobbed each other after the final buzzer sounded.

“It’s tough to beat this moment,” he said.

The 19-year-old played with the Fishermen during the 2016-17 campaign, when they were still part of the Keystone Junior Hockey League, but he opted to join the Wisconsin Muskies of the United States Premier Hockey League last season.

Mironuk returned to the Fishermen this season and played a key role anchoring the team’s blue-line on the way to a regular-season best record of 23-7-1-1.

The North Winnipeg Satelites and Selkirk Fishermen shakes hands following the conclusion of Game 6 of the Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship series at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

After captain Jeremy Thomas was sidelined for the season with a leg injury just past the halfway mark of the season, Mironuk and fellow alternate captains Dawson Courchene, Dane Derewianchuk, Dawson Courchene and netminder Riley Bannerman stepped up their leadership.

Although Thomas was unable to play, he still led the team.

“He was there in the dressing room and supporting us, but on the ice everyone had to step up a little bit and we all did that as a team,” Mironuk said.

Bannerman was in between the pipes for the first two games of the league final after starter Austin Deboer suffered a sprained right ankle in Game 7 of the semifinal series against the Lundar Falcons, but Deboer returned to the crease for Game 3 on April 2.

Deboer, an East Selkirk product, made 28 saves in his return as the Fishermen won 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Derewianchuk.

After the Satelites squared the series with a 3-1 Game 4 triumph on April 3, Deboer turned aside 27 more shots in another 2-1 overtime victory on April 5, as 16-year-old call-up Ray Hefferman tallied the Game 5 winner.

Selkirk Fishermen goaltender Austin Deboer (right) goes to hug teammate Travis Paradoski after they defeated the North Winnipeg Satelites 4-2 in Game 6 of the Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship series at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

But Deboer saved his best for last, making 33 saves, including 16 in the last 20 minutes, to backstop the Fishermen to their first junior B championship since 2015 when they were in the KJHL.

“I’d definitely say it was my best game,” the 19-year-old netminder said. “The third period was tough at times because they had some good opportunities but I think the boys pulled through and we just found a way to win.”

“I won a championship with some of these boys when I was 12-years-old and winning in junior is something I never expected to happen,” Deboer added.

Selkirk head coach and general manager Chris Poponick had nothing but praise for Deboer.

“We had a great tandem of goaltenders all year long and Austin got to ride it and he stepped up and he played fantastic,” Poponick said. “He’s one of the big reasons why we are standing here — not only in the Lundar series but in this series too.”

Courchene opened the scoring with 4:03 remaining in the opening frame, but it was a pair of goals 19 seconds apart by Ben Kelly and Josh Poponick just before the halfway mark of the second period that allowed the Fishermen to take control of the game.

Rustyn Lodon of the North Winnipeg Satelites battles Selkirk Fishermen Evan Bedard (14) and Ben Kelly (12) for the puck during second-period action in Game 6 of the Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship series at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

North Winnipeg pushed back late in the second and the Satelites earned a five-on-three power play to begin the third.

Braden Sargent’s third goal of the playoffs 89 seconds into the period gave the Satelites life, but King put a stop to any momentum the hosts had when he converted a behind-the-net pass from Juliano Garcea to re-establish a three-goal lead for Selkirk.

“It just got us right back in it,” Poponick said. “It was a great pass by Juliano from behind the net and Chad buried it, made no mistake about it. 

“We were wearing them down and they were running out of gas. They didn’t have four lines with a bunch of guys injured and so did we but we just kept on going.”

The Satelites kept pressing and even clanked a post on one of their three five-on-three man advantages in the third period, but they couldn’t put another puck past Deboer until Nathan Jones of St. Andrews scored with 18 seconds to play to cap the scoring.

Jordan Donald of the Selkirk Fishermen searches for the puck amidst North Winnipeg Satelites defender Nicholas Doerksen and goaltender Kenton Brass during second-period action in Game 6 of the Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship series at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

North Winnipeg finished 1-for-7 on the man advantage, while the Fishermen failed to convert on any of their four power plays.

Satelites netminder Kenton Brass made 32 saves, but he was unable to lead his team back to Selkirk for a seventh and deciding game.

With so many affiliate players in the Selkirk lineup for each post-season game due to injuries, suspensions and work commitments, Poponick was thrilled by how the group came together with a championship on the line.

“It was unreal. They brought it altogether, they kept on working, they bought into what we were doing and the results are there,” he said. “A great result at the end with so many young kids on the team and so many rookies. I’m so proud of these guys for the way they battled and it’s fantastic.”

The Selkirk Fishermen leadership group accepts the Capital Region Junior Hockey League championship trophy after defeating the North Winnipeg Satelites 4-2 in the best-of-seven series at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg on April 7. Nathan Liewicki / The Selkirk Journal

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