British Columbia 5 Alberta 2
Red Deer’s Keith McInnis and Team Alberta fell just short of winning a gold medal at the 2021 WHL Cup.
But despite Alberta’s 5-2 loss to British Columbia in the gold-medal game at the Peavey Mart Centrium Sunday, the 15-year-old defenceman said he will look back on the tournament fondly, as he got to play with some of Western Canada’s best young hockey players in his hometown.
“It was awesome. To have my family here, to have this (tournament) in my hometown, it really meant a lot,” said McInnis, who is playing at Yale Hockey Academy in B.C. this season.
“To see my little cousin who I haven’t seen in four months, that really brought a smile to my face. To see all of my aunties, uncles, sisters, mom and dad, dog – the little things with this tournament being here really made a difference.”
After a scoreless first period, British Columbia got on the board early in the second, when Hiroko Gojsic slid the puck underneath Alberta goaltender Madden Mulawka.
Alberta’s Gavin Garland dragged the puck between the legs of defender EJ Emery before tucking a shot around B.C. goaltender Jesse Sanche’s left pad to tie the game at one 6:28 into the second period.
Goaltender Evan Gardner was scheduled to start the game for B.C., but Sanche was announced as the starter seconds before puck drop. Gardner was hurt in B.C.’s game against Saskatchewan Saturday and reaggravated his injury during the team’s warmup Sunday.
B.C. took the lead again before the end of second. At 16:49, Jordan Gavin was standing behind the net with the puck and spotted defenceman William McIssac creeping in from the blueline. Gavin slid the puck to his teammate who blasted it to the back of the net.
Zane Saab had a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot in the final seconds of the second, but his attempt was stuffed by Sanche.
Cayden Lindstrom put B.C. up by two 4:35 into the third after beating Alberta’s goaltender with a shot from a tough angle.
Alberta forward Garrett Thom scored a shorthanded breakaway goal to bring his team within one, with six minutes left on the clock.
Carson Wetsch and Oliver Josephson added two empty-net goals for B.C., lifting their team to a 5-2 win.
Both goalies were named the players of the game – Sanche stopped 30 of 32 saves in his team’s win, while Mulawka stopped 32 of 35.
Alberta’s head coach Serge Lajoie said he was “disappointed” by the loss, but expressed how proud he was of Team Alberta.
“I was really happy with the way we played. A couple of bounces here and there, it could’ve been a different outcome,” he said.
But “it was never about the outcome. It was about the process for us and trying to help them grow as much as possible and get as much out of this experience as they could.”
McInnis was named to the 2021 WHL Cup All-Star team following the game.
“I might have played (well), but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Everything happened because of them. We battled hard together … and became a family. I will cherish that forever,” said McInnis.
Lajoie said the Red Deer product is “professional and mature” and possesses a tremendous skill set.
“I’m excited to follow his journey as he moves up the ranks. We were blessed with a lot of players that demonstrated leadership and growth on the ice. Keith was definitely one of those players,” Lajoie said.
The other tournament all-stars were goaltender Ethan McCallum (Manitoba), defenceman Jonas Woo (Manitoba), and B.C. forwards Jordan Gavin, Miguel Marque and Tomas Mrsic.
Saskatchewan defeated Manitoba 3-2 in the bronze medal game earlier in the day. Trae Wilke, Tyson Buczkowski and Ashton Tait had the goals for Saskatchewan, while Cole Cairns and Hayden Moore scored for Manitoba.
Goaltender Chase Wutzke stopped 31 of 33 shots for Saskatchewan and Dimitri Fortin stopped 23 of 26 for Manitoba.