Kitigan Zibi goaltender James Marinier made a save during the championship final of the Low Memorial Hockey Classic on March 26 that would make some NHLers jealous.
David Toppa’s nifty breakaway, spin-o-rama move looked like a sure goal, as he cut in from the left boards and drew the goalie wide before spinning a full 180 degrees to a dead stop to reveal a wide-open net. But as he lifted the backhand, Marinier dove across and made an incredible save to keep the puck from crossing the goal line and his team from slipping to 3-0 against Hale Farms.
“I’ve seen a lot of hockey in my lifetime, but that was unreal,” said tournament organizer Scott Mahoney. “The move was insane, and the fact that he didn’t score was even crazier. It was the play of the tournament.”
The big save sent the packed crowd at the Gatineau Valley Arena (GVA) in Low into a frenzy, with spectators – mostly hockey players from previous games – spilling their beer and staring at each other with wide eyes and open jaws. It was the game’s turning point and the play that spurred Kitigan Zibi’s third-period comeback, which saw them win a thrilling 6-5 stunner in the dying minute of the game.
The “A” division final was what Mahoney called the “crown jewel” of the tournament, but there was plenty more old-school hockey action that saw a handful of local teams compete in the epic, 18-squad tournament.
The Kirks Ferry Crush won the championship in the 45-plus division, with the Chelsea crew – including Derek Medland, Charlie Lauzier, Trevor Merrill and Ron Sloan – pulling a huge upset over last year’s winners, the Aylmer Wild.
In the “B” Division, it was Sabliere Fleury who took the trophy, after beating out the Rupert Jr’s in another thrilling championship final.
The Chelsea Rampage, featuring Will “The Thrill” Desjardins, Matt “Dangle” Dingle and several other local Chelsea hockey stars, were the favourites heading into the 35-plus division semi-finals, but fell to the eventual tournament winners, The Aylmer Kings 4-2.
The tournament has been running as long as the Low Arena has - an impressive 29 years - and has become one of their biggest and most important fundraisers throughout the year. While final tallies aren’t in, Mahoney said that in previous years, the tournament has brought in up to $20,000 for the arena.
“The ‘memorial’ is in the tournament name to honour all the volunteers that came before us and have passed, but their efforts have made it possible for the GVA to exist today,” added Mahoney.
The Low arena is maintained and operated solely by volunteers, with no municipal funding and is “one of the few arenas in existence that operate this way,” said Mahoney.
Construction for the Low arena began in September 1993 with more than 300 volunteers putting in over 22,000 hours of work before it was complete. The arena officially opened for public skating on Jan. 23, 1994.