The piece that follows was to have appeared here a few days ago, but other news got in the way. . . . Thanks to Victoria Cougars Hockey Project (@victoriacougars) for alerting me to the 33rd anniversary of what may have been what the tweet described as “the biggest regular-season upset in WHL history.” . . . If you are a regular here, you will know that I am a sucker for that kind of stuff. So I did some research and came up with this. . . . Enjoy!
It was Feb. 16, 1990, a Friday night.
The Victoria Cougars and their 4-49-2 record were at Memorial Arena in Kamloops for a date with the high-flying Blazers, who were 45-12-0.
The Cougars were looking for their first two-game winning streak of the season, having beaten the visiting Portland Winter Hawks, 8-5, two nights earlier to end a 32-game — yes, 32 games — losing skid. Yes, that was a CHL and WHL record.
There were 2,284 fans in the seats and you know they were expecting their favourites to skate to victory.
But . . . you know what they say . . . That’s why we play the game!
The Cougars got a goal from Ryan Harrison at 4:34 of OT to beat the Blazers, 7-6.
Harrison, a Kamloops native, had been dealt to the Cougars by the Blazers earlier that season, with Clayton Young going the other way.
Shayne Green of the Cougars had forced OT by scoring at 18:33 of the third period with goaltender Corey Jones on the bench for the extra attacker.
Earlier goals had come from Dean Dyer, Dino Caputo, Mike Seaton, Rob Sumner, who suffered a knee injury in the third period, and Mark Cipriano.
The Blazers had gotten two goals from each of Murray Duval and Darryl Sydor, with singles coming from Joe Mittelstaedt and Phil Huber.
Jones finished with 47 saves, while the Blazers’ duo of Dale Masson, who played the first period, and Corey Hirsch combined to stop 18.
Dyer had given the Cougars a 1-0 lead 39 seconds into the game. But the Blazers led 3-1 before the seven-minute mark. They got a wakeup call, though, as the Cougars struck three times before the period’s end, with two of the goals coming in the last 30 seconds.
The Blazers then scored the only two goals of the second period for a 5-4 lead.
Duval upped it to 6-4 at 2:56, with Cipriano getting the Cougars back to within one at 6:43.
The Victoria Times Colonist wasn’t able to report on the game because of deadline issues. The Saturday paper included the game summary through the end of the second period, with a notation that the game was “in progress at press time.”
However, there was a story on the second sports page of the Sunday paper. The headline: Cougars win again.
“After this,” Victoria head coach Lyle Moffat said, “I hope the guys believe that they can beat any team. We got a monkey off our back by breaking the losing streak (beating Portland 8-5 on Wednesday) and we told the players to put it all behind them. We told them to simply look ahead. . . .
“They kept plugging away. With the reputation Kamloops has, they could have given up after betting down but they didn’t.”
Unfortunately for Moffat, the Cougars didn’t win another game that season, losing 15 in a row. They finished 5-65 with two ties, setting WHL records for fewest points (12), fewest victories in a minimum 68-game schedule, most losses, longest losing streak (32 games), and longest road losing streak (23, tie).
Moffat was the team’s third coach that season; the victory over Portland had left him as the only one with more than one victory. Garry Cunningham had gone 1-28-0, while Wayne Naka was 1-5-1.
After beating the Blazers, Moffat was 3-16-1. He finished the season 3-31-1.
If you care about the newspaper industry or have even a glimmer of interest in it, you should pour yourself a cup of your favourite brew and give this piece right here a read. . . . It’s from Jeremy Klaszus of The Sprawl, which, according to its website, provides “in-depth Calgary journalism.” . . . This piece takes a look at the rise and fall of the Calgary Herald, but it could be the story of any once-dominant newspaper in any Canadian city.
SUNDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
The Kamloops Blazers ran their winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 victory over the host Calgary Hitmen. . . . The game was played at the Tsuut’ina Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. . . . F Ryan Hofer, returning from a one-game suspension, scored his 34th goal and added an assist for the Blazers, who also got a goal (28) and an assist from F Daylan Kuefler. . . . F Caedan Bankier (27) got the Blazers started just 11 seconds into the first period. . . . Kamloops had a 50-20 edge in shots. . . . G Dylan Ernst won his 30th game of the season by blocking 19 shots. He is 30-8-3, 2.61, .909. . . . Kamloops F Logan Stankoven had his point streak halted at 35 games. He had 79 points, including 27 goals, over that stretch. That is tied with F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats for the longest point streak this seaosn. . . . Kamloops (35-10-6) is tied with Portland, eight points behind Western Conference-leading Seattle. . . . Calgary is sixth in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Regina, Swift Current and Medicine Hat.
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