More than two decades have passed since a Chilliwack hockey squad won this city’s one and only midget AAA provincial title.
To Derek Cranfield and his teammates, it feels like a lifetime ago since they dispatched Cowichan 7-1 to hoist the trophy.
But when Cranfield, one of the goalies on that 1993-94 team, starts reminiscing the memories flood back.
“It’s the way that we came together that stands out to me,” Cranfield recalls. “The cohesiveness and the bond we all had, playing for that one goal. That’s the way our group was and what I still remember all these years later.”
Chilliwack’s midget teams were consistently among the best in that era, but they always seemed to be a player or two short of greatness.
That year the team added Jeremy Lapeyre from Port Hardy, a player who’d go on to net 52 goals and 108 points in 51 games.
He bolstered an attack that included 30-goal men Mark Knight (52-42-64-106), Brandon Tournier (51-36-40-76) and Mike Pfeifer (54-30-37-67).
“Adding Lapeyre gave us that push we needed to compete with some of the bigger associations,” Cranfield said. “We were always on the cusp, and with him coming in at the beginning of the season we thought we might have something special.”
The team went 6-2 in preseason and 5-1-2 in tiering games.
They lost in the final of the Cowichan tournament in mid-November, then launched into an 18 game regular season slate.
“The goal from the onset for the coaches (Neil Murphy and Marny Pfeifer) and the team was that this was the year we had the potential to do something,” Cranfield says. “I don’t think we ever said, ‘Hey, let’s go to provincials.’ But it was always in the back of our minds.”
The team went 13-4-1 in regular season play, establishing an identity as a hard-working and hard-hitting group.
Captain Chris Larsen set the tone with bone-crushing checks.
Jim McCarron, Dean Goodey, Aaron Hoggan, Trevor Schulz, Kelly English, Kyle Murphy, Ian Clark, Shane Stoneson, Jody Lapeyre, Nigel Perras and Chad Martz — the team never stopped hustling and had the skill to make opponents pay.
“We could play tough against the tough teams and could out-finesse finesse teams,” Cranfield explains. “We had the ability to adapt and change, but at the same time take it to teams.”“We had some pretty big boys on that team, especially on defence who weren’t too timid to play that aggressive style.”
Cranfield and Derek England were the goalies, backstopping the team in zone playoffs in February of 1994.
“We beat Abbotsford in a best-of-two, which was great because they’d been our rivals for years,” Cranfield says. “Then we moved into a final four scenario where the team with the best record moved on to provincials.”
Chilliwack beat South Delta 5-2 and Coquitlam 4-1 and lost 7-6 to North Delta.
“It was an unreal feeling coming out of that, knowing we’d booked our ticket to Fort St. John,” Cranfield says.Provincials were three weeks later.
Chilliwack started March 20 with a 6-5 win over Richmond.
“It was a 5-5 game and we had all the pressure in the world on them in the last minute,” Cranfield says. “One of their players put his hand on the puck in the crease, and the refs had indicated a penalty shot, but there was all sorts of mass confusion at the benches.”“Jeremy (Lapeyre) wasn’t on the ice during the play, but someone on our team nudged him and said, ‘Get on the ice now.’”“The refs said someone on the ice needed to take the shot, and he did.”“He shouldn’t have, but he ended up scoring the winning goal, and in a small tournament like that, the first win was so important.”
Chilliwack dumped Williams Lake 4-1, Whitehorse 3-2 and Vernon 2-1.
They reached the final where they destroyed Cowichan 7-1.
“I would never say it was anti-climactic, but we took it to them and ran away with it in the end,” Cranfield says. “We had pretty much the whole third period where we knew we were in total control.”“The tough part is Chad (Martz) took a tough hit and was actually concussed at some point.”“I still remember that final buzzer going and the euphoria of winning, but then it was, ‘Where’s Chad? How’s Chad?’”
Cranfield remembers a team trip to Boston Pizza and staying up till the early hours of the morning.
“We were at the age where we were only drinking root beer, but it was still a memorable time,” he said. “The bus ride home was really fun and we weren’t done yet.”The team would move on to the inter-provincial playoffs where they’d fall in two games to Red Deer. But that loss didn’t take the shine off of what they did.“We competed hard against them and had some circumstances that didn’t help us, like Chad’s injury,” Cranfield says. “I never regretted ending the season that way because we still had that provincial highlight.”“We hosted Red Deer at the Chilliwack Coliseum and we got to come out of that corner tunnel like we’d all seen the Chilliwack Chiefs do.”“Coming out to 2500 fans was a special moment and I still remember the appreciation we got from our hometown.”
Though many members of the team still live in and around Chilliwack, they haven’t been together as a group since 1994.
Larson lives in Kamloops.
Another is coming out from Edmonton.
“I’ve talked to quite a few of the guys that last month or so,” Cranfield says. “Pretty much everyone is going to be there and it’s going to be fun.”“It’ll be interesting to swap stories and see what 20 years has done to each of us.”“We’ll have some pops and see where life has taken us and share the stories we remember.”