The Chisasibi Beavers were on fire in the third period of the provincial championships in Louiseville, Quebec, slamming in two goals to tie up an intense game against The Diplomats from Laurentian / Lanaudière.
The Diplomats scored two early goals in the first period, but really started to feel the heat from the Chisasibi team right from the start of the third period when the boys came back strong to tie up the game 2-2.
The Chisasibi cheering section of the arena went wild early in the third period when Jonas Rupert scored the first goal. The arena practically shook from the shouts of joys when, moments later; Ronald Vfeshipabano, assisted by Vincent MacDonald, tied up the game.
“The kids were really hot,” said Keith Bearskin, one of the coaches. “Chisasibi was really dominating the game by the end. They were warmed up and playing really well. It could have gone either way, easily.”
Coach Charlie Fleming said he was impressed with the boys for never giving up.
“Our players were behind for the first two periods, but they came back hard in the third and played really well. These boys know not to give up. I am really proud of them for that.”
Throughout the grueling third period, the Beavers had their opponents on die run, rarely letting the Laurentian team get the puck out of their end. The Beavers were out-shooting and out-playing the opposition, tiring them out, but they just couldn’t score.
The cell phones were ringing off the hook in the stands, with family members calling and parents giving hurried updates as the game went on. The Chisasibi cheering section were yelling themselves hoarse, shouting instructions to everyone from the stands and proudly honking horns and waving the Chisasibi Nation flag.
“Many of these parents have been coming to games and early morning practices for the whole winter,” said hockey mom Sandra Webb. “We’ve seen the boys progress over the months. They are true champions.”
After the third period, at 2-2, the game went into overtime: five minutes with four players on each team. Both teams worked hard, and again, Chisasibi was dominating, but the winning goal just wouldn’t come.
“I am proud they played as a team,” said co-manager Stella Bearskin. “They were passing well to each other, they were really in control of the puck.”
With the scone deadlocked, the game went into a shootout.
Jonas Rupert shot first. His shot was blocked. Next up, the Diplomat player put one in. Then Ronald Vfashipabino tried his best, but couldn’t score either. The game ended when the second Diplomat player sent his goal home.
“If they had had another chance at regular overtime play, it is pretty clear they would have won. In terms of actual play, Chisasibi played better, but unfortunately they just couldn’t score,” said Keith Bearskin.
When the final goal went in, the Chisasibi boys were devastated, several were in tears and some of them threw themselves on the ice in despair. They had given it their all and fought really hard. Some of the parents in the stands had tears in their eyes as well.
“They played so well,” said Stella Bearskin. “They played so hard. And they really showed their abilities in the third period – they were so close. It was heartbreaking.” Andrew Rupert, grandfather to Jonas Rupert said: “It’s sad for the kids, but we’re happy to be in the provincial championships. We’ve never gotten this far before. We’ne going to celebrate our good season.”
One reason the loss was so hard on the boys is because the Chisasibi Beavers have played unbeaten since last December, dominating every game they played.
In the regional finals last month in Rouyn Noranda, the Beavers won all their games against the other Abitibi teams. They dominated Rouyn in the final match to win 5-3.
“That was a tough game. The refs called 10 penalties against Chisasbi in the first period alone,” said Sandra Webb, mother of Vincent MacDonald. “It was as if the refs were unfair and wanted Rouyn to keep their tide.”
But the boys weren’t deterred.
‘All year, I told the boys there’s no ‘one’ in team,” said Stella Bearskin. “They have to play together. Together Everybody Achieves More – that’s the anagram for TEAM. And they really played together. We are so proud of them. They are in the top of the league.”
One difficulty, according to some of the hockey moms, was the great distance the Chisasibi players had to travel for the championships. It was a 16-hour drive for the families and everyone was very tired from the trip.
The coaches, parents, players and managers want to thank everybody who donated their time and money to make the trip possible. With hotels, travel and food, the bill totaled over $ 10,000 and it is thanks to the entire community that the boys were able to experience such high-calibre play. The team especially wants to thank their sponsors: The Cree Nation of Chisasibi, and the Chisasibi Minor Sports and Recreation Association (CSRA).
“These boys have played together for seven years, since the beginning. So they all know each other and respect each other They are friends on and off the ice,” said coach Charlie Fleming.
All in all, it was an important life lesson, said coach Keith Bearskin. “It’s not easy to lose in sports, but that’s an important part of the game and an important part of life. Learning how to lose well will help all the boys. In life, things don’t always go as we want and we all have to learn from that.” Parents were told by tournament officials that all the teams were really impressed with the skill of The Beavers. They were even informed many of the other teams were scared of The Beavers.
“They were so much bigger and stronger than most of the other boys in the tournament,” said one mom. “In Rouyn, the other parents kept asking us what we fed our kids!”“It was a really good experience,” said coach lanic Aubry. “They’ll be here again, and next time, they’ll go all the way. They’ve all grown from this experience.”