The Fort St. John Junior Huskies split their games against the North Peace Navigators this past weekend, but it was Sunday’s matinee game at North Peace Arena that had the fans on their feet for what people are calling the team’s “best game of the year.”
Although the Huskies lost to the second-place Navs 6-3 on Saturday night, on Sunday afternoon it was like a different team hit the ice in front of the home crowd for a little redemption as the Huskies played a full 60 minutes with a short bench and won 3-2.
In net was a new face for the Huskies, Daimon Derouin, who got the start on Thursday while goaltender Travis McLean was out of town for work.
“We’re buddies and I’ve known him as long as I can remember so it’s no competition,” Derouin said on Sunday. “All of us want to do the best we can, it doesn’t matter who’s starting, just do the best when it’s your turn.”
“I didn’t feel like I played nervous, but I definitely was.”
Derouin made 29 saves on Saturday from one of the most potent teams in the North West Junior Hockey League, making almost-impossible stretches from post-to-post every period to deny the Navigators from adding to their two goals.
“I thought the difference in the game was when [Derouin] made the big saves when we needed them and [one] right there at the end of the third with a fantastic save,” said head coach Gary Alexander who couldn’t contain his smile.
“When he makes a save like that there’s a big boost of adrenaline and excitement and they go out to support him.”
And it wasn’t just the netminder who had a stellar game. All pistons were firing for the Fort St. John junior squad, as their defence was as tight, physical and disciplined as possible to keep the Navigators at bay.
“They played awesome,” Alexander said about his blue line. “They stood up, they cleared pucks, they took the man and they hit when they were supposed to. They had a great game and didn’t have time to think, only to react.”
It was the Navigators who opened scoring in the game five minutes in, but 25 seconds later the Huskies answered when Dylan Houle potted one past Patrick Earl. Again the Navigators went up four minutes later, and again the Huskies responded within a minute to tie the game 2-2 in the first as Tyler Norris scored off of Robbie Sidhu’s rebound.
Two minutes left in the first the Huskies scored for the last time to take the first lead of the game as Houle got another, and then it was up to Derouin and the squad in front of him to keep the Navigators from tying it for the next 40 minutes.
With some major saves highlighting the last two periods, Derouin frustrated more than one Navigator Sunday, especially 55 seconds left in the game when the new goalie made a toe save that should be on a highlight reel somewhere.
“That was scary for me actually,” Derouin said laughing. “I don’t even know what was going on in my head there, just stretched across as far as I could.”
Seconds later when the buzzer went, the Huskies skated over to their new goalie to bombard him with something similar to words of encouragement.
“[They said] nothing you guys probably want to hear,” Derouin added, grinning, “It was all good.”
“I couldn’t be happier with how it went, so happy that’s the way it ended up. It’s a great group of guys and I’m happy to be playing with these guys.”
Alexander hopes Sunday’s win was a game changer for his squad.
“They know if they put that effort in they can win a hockey game against one of the best teams,” he said. “It’s always a big mental boost to have something like this turnaround for you especially today when we’re shorthanded and we got the job done.”
“I think [Derouin]’s a big positive here.”
The Huskies will get to put their new boost to the test again Saturday, Jan. 19 against the Vipers.