As offensive heroes go, Garett Lynum is as unlikely a candidate as you’ll find on the Abbotsford Pilots’ roster.
Over the course of three seasons with the local junior B hockey club, the stay-at-home defenceman had mustered just seven goals in 162 games, regular season and playoffs combined.
His eighth, though, was one neither he nor his teammates will ever forget.
At 4:17 of the second overtime period in the Cyclone Taylor Cup championship game on Sunday afternoon, Lynum lobbed a wrist shot from the left point that floated through a crowd of bodies and found the top corner behind Victoria Cougars goalie Evan Roch.
When the puck hit the twine, it set off a wild celebration on the ice at MSA Arena, as the Pilots punched their ticket to the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian championship tournament. That event runs April 19-22 at Saskatoon’s Harold Latrace Arena, and the Pilots fly out on Wednesday.
Asked what happened from his perspective on the game-winning goal, Lynum could only shrug and chuckle.
“I don’t score much, so I don’t really know,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin. “But seeing it go in the net was the best thing ever.”
After a scoreless first period, Victoria’s Chris Bannister opened the scoring at 6:18 of the second. Riley Lamb drew Abbotsford even at 10:23, but the Cougars owned the latter half of the frame.
The Pilots had heaps of trouble exiting their own zone against Victoria’s withering forecheck in the last five minutes of the second period, and that pressure eventually yielded a holding penalty on Abby blueliner Travis Grewal. On the ensuing power play, Cougars captain Brody Coulter ripped a slap shot from the slot past Pilots goalie Riley Parker.
Victoria kept the Pilots at bay for much of the final frame. At the other end of the ice, Parker came up with his best save of the game, going left-to-right to stone Steven Axford on a two-on-one break to keep Abbotsford within striking distance.
The Pilots finally broke through with 1:10 remaining, as Matt Genovese’s point shot pinballed through a maze of legs in front and somehow found its way in.
The first OT period settled nothing, but early in the second extra session, Riley Lamb fed Lynum at the point, and the rest is history.
While officials credited Lynum with the goal, video indicated that Pilots forward Justin Dorey may have tipped it in.
Abbotsford captain Brett Kolins was named tournament MVP.
The Pilots lost their opening game of the Cyclone Taylor Cup round robin to Victoria on Thursday, but bounced back to beat the Delta Ice Hawks on Friday and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Saturday to earn a rematch in Sunday’s final.
“A lot of it was home ice – sleeping in our own beds, having our home fans, having that momentum,” Lynum said, reflecting on the Pilots’ rally. “The fans have been with us all season, cheering us on through ups and downs.”
The Pilots open the Keystone Cup on Thursday against the Thunder Bay Northern Hawks, the Ontario representatives. The six-team tourney also features the host Saskatoon Royals, the Arborg Ice Dawgs (Manitoba), the Traveland RV Storm (Pilot Butte, Sask.), and the Whitecourt Wolverines (Alberta).
“It’s exciting,” Pilots head coach Jim Cowden enthused. “It’s a great reward for winning provincials, going to have a great time on the road with the team.”