Derek Falloon and Curtis Oliver hope to go from one island to another.
Falloon, from Russell, and Oliver, from Elkhorn, will head to Vancouver Island next week after helping the Yorkton Terriers claim the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League title to qualify for the inaugural Western Canada Cup in Nanaimo, B.C.
The top two finishers in the five-team tournament — featuring the host team and champions of the Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. junior leagues — will qualify for the RBC Cup Canadian Junior A championship next month in Summerside, P.E.I. But Falloon said the Terriers are aiming for the top spot in the western Canadian tournament, which replaces a pair of regional playoffs.
"That’d be pretty cool to be the first ones to win the Western Canada Cup," he said.
No matter what happens out west, the Terriers will end the season as a championship team for the first time since claiming their last SJHL crown in 2006. Yorkton has lost the league final twice since then — in 2010 and 2011. Terriers head coach Trent Cassan, a Medora native who took over the team’s helm in the first of those seasons, said getting over the top this spring has been a rewarding accomplishment.
"It’s been an awesome experience and a pretty hectic time here, but a really exciting time," said Cassan, whose Terriers ousted the Humboldt Broncos in the league final, clinching the series in Game 6 on Sunday in Yorkton. "We were very close a couple times. There’s a number of players that have been with us three or four years; it was their third time in the league final in four seasons and to be able to accomplish it on home ice too, in front of a packed arena, it’s a pretty exciting time in the community right now."
Oliver, a second-year Terrier who turned 20 last week, said he believed right from the start of the season that the team had potential for a big year and the club lived up to that, tying for first overall with a 36-14-1-3 record. The former Yellowhead Chiefs midget standout produced seven goals and 21 points in 43 regular-season games, then added a goal and an assist in 15 playoff contests. With the depth the Terriers possess, Oliver knew he didn’t have to be a big scorer for the team to succeed.
"I was an energy guy and tried to get the team sparked to keep everyone going," he said. "Everyone bought into the team and everyone knew their roles and what they had to do and everyone executed."
Falloon, a third-year Junior A veteran, was acquired by the Terriers from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders last summer. He had seven goals and 29 points in 44 games before he broke a vertebra while warming up for a game in February — one day before his 20th birthday — and missed the rest of the regular season. Falloon returned for the Sher-Wood Conference final against the Melville Millionaires, then was sidelined again before suiting up for the last three games of the final, finishing the playoffs with two assists in eight games.
After losing only three games at home during the regular season and playoffs, the challenge now for the Terriers is to succeed on the road against a group of teams they’ve never faced before.
"When it’s only a one-game shot, you really have to have your team on top of their game," said Cassan, whose team will open on April 27 against either the Spruce Grove Saints or the Brook Bandits from the Alberta Junior Hockey League. "It’s not like a playoff series where you play a team five or six or seven times and you can watch the video from the first game and show them things that (the other team) did. Once you play them once, you’re done with them."
ONE-TIMERS: John Lawrence of Newdale made it to the SJHL final with Humboldt, tallying a goal and five points in 16 playoff games after notching 16 goals and 35 points in 40 regular-season contests.