CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Ethan Reilly tied it with 3:39 left and Donovan Arsenault scored the title-winning goal with 52 seconds remaining as the Prince County Warriors captured a provincial title Saturday in Charlottetown.
The Warriors defeated the Central Attack 3-2 at MacLauchlan Arena to win the best-of-five Prince Edward Island Major Bantam AAA Hockey League championship series 3-2.
“You’ll never get a better moment than this,” Reilly said while celebrating with his teammates.
“I can’t believe we won it,” added Arsenault, a forward from Richmond. “A third-place team to win it all, it just means a lot.”
It caps a P.E.I. season that saw the Warriors finish third in the four-team league, knock off the second-place Eastern Express in Game 5 of the semifinal in Montague and win three games on the road in the final. The Warriors played their 10 playoff games in 19 days.
“We never quit from Day 1. We were down 2-1 against the Express, we never quit. We came back and won it in Game 5 and here we are again,” said Reilly, a forward from Bloomfield.
“We have this motto: W6 – We work the Warrior way, we win, so I guess we worked the Warrior way tonight,” smiled goalie Aiden Williams, a six-foot-one, 160-pound Spring Hill native.
Alex Graham and Jamie Collins scored power-play goals in the first period to give the Attack a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Jesse Blanchard cut the deficit to one in the second period and gave the Warriors a lift heading to the third, said head coach Cleve McNeill.
“What a thriller,” he said. “I can't say enough about the 19 players that we have. To go two series, five games each one, battle the whole time with really a never-quit attitude.”
McNeill made sure Williams went out with the captains to accept the banner after the game. He was key Saturday, keeping the score 2-0 while his teammates battled to tie the game up.
“We wouldn't be where we are without him,” McNeill said. “He’s our playoff MVP.”
A mutual respect between the teams was obvious from speaking with both sides. Three of the five games were determined by a goal and two went to overtime.
Attack head coach Jeff MacDonald said both teams played fantastic.
“Our kids played hard. We asked them to show up to the rink tonight and give us everything they had. A 3-2 hockey game, I think, they left everything on the table,” he said. “It’s not nice losing, but when you know you gave it your all it’s a little easier to take.”
MacDonald pointed to giving the Warriors six power-play chances as a difference in the deciding game.
“Although we killed off all the penalties we took, we took too many,” he said. “Although you don't get scored on . . . it definitely turns the momentum around.”
The Warriors will represent Prince Edward Island at the Atlantic championship from April 5-8 in Torbay, N.L.