The 2021-22 season was supposed to be the opportunity for the Central Canada Hockey League season to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror, but as the calendar turned to 2022 the stubborn virus disrupted what had been a great start to the season for the Pembroke Lumber Kings. When a provincial shutdown forced the league to put its regular season on hold, it also left the Kings leading scorer, Brady Egan, in a tough spot.
Aiming for a scholarship opportunity to play college hockey in the United States, Egan couldn’t afford to take a risk that the CCHL might not resume. Over the holidays he made the decision to join an American junior team in Bismarck, North Dakota, leaving a huge gap in the Kings line-up. Egan was not only leading the Kings in scoring, he was on top of the leader board for the entire league with 43 points in 28 games. That’s how 2022 started for the Kings.
The loss of Egan slowed down the team’s scoring. Injuries to key players like Jesse Kirkby and Jack Stockfish didn’t help and the Kings limped into the post-season for a first round showdown with the Brockville Braves. The Kings jumped into a 3-1 series lead, but couldn’t finish off the Braves who battled back to force what turned out to be an epic seventh and deciding game.
The two teams needed four overtime periods before the Braves ended the Kings season with a 2-1 win. It was the second longest CCHL game in history and led to a dismantling of the club, with only three players projected to return for the 2022-23 season.
In the spring of 2022, it was Lumber Kings alumni who were making headlines. In one memorable week, former players and coaches landed in high profile positions in the National Hockey League, or in the case of Shawn Allard as Stanley Cup champions. Allard, who played three years with the Kings in the 1990’s has become one of the top skating coaches in the NHL and had the chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug as the Skills Development coach of the Colorado Avalanche when the Avs knocked out the defending champion, Tampa Bay Lightning in the league final. Later in the summer, Allard brought the cup back to his hometown of Petawawa where he helped parade the cup into the town via a military escort.
While Allard was celebrating winning the Stanley Cup, two former players were being introduced as new NHL head coaches. Jim Montgomery who collected 135 points in his lone season with the Kings in the 1988-89 campaign took over the bench of the Boston Bruins and Luke Richardson who played a handful of games with the Kings, also in the 1980’s, was hired to lead the Chicago Black Hawks. Meantime in Ottawa, former Lumber Kings netminder Trent Mann was elevated to the role as of assistant general manager.
In August, Mason McTavish led Canada to a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Alberta. As captain of the Canadian squad, McTavish also provided one of the most memorable moments in tournament history when he made an incredible save in overtime against Finland, allowing his teammates to turn up the ice to score the winning and tournament clinching goal.
The gold medal capped an incredible year for the former Lumber King who also won an Ontario Hockey League Championship with the Hamilton Bull Dogs and narrowly missed winning a Memorial Cup when the Bull Dogs lost in the championship game. McTavish, who was the third overall pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2021 amateur draft, also cracked the Ducks line-up full time at the start of the NHL regular season.
The Kings reached back to more alumni when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1972-73 Kings team who advanced to the Centennial Cup Final, before losing to the Portage La Prairie Terriers. It was a special team that lost only four games in the regular season and defeated three opponents in best of seven series to become Eastern Canadian champions. Several of the players from the team returned to the Pembroke Memorial Centre for a special pre-game ceremony, including former NHL’er Rod Schutt who participated in a first period showdown that brought back a flood of memories for fans who watched him as a 16-year old phenom with the Kings during that magical season.
As the Lumber Kings started a new season in September, it was clearly going to be a rebuilding year as only Alex Urbisci, Raphael Seguin and Nathan Duck returned from the previous season. The club struggled to score goals for much of the first half of the season, but received stellar goaltending from Ben Forget which kept the team in most of their games, but wins were hard to come by.
By the Christmas break, the team had traded several players and brought in more younger players as the Kings built for the future. Youngsters like Cam Hicklin, Vital Dinis and Pratt Stetson started to demonstrate they had a touch around the net and will continue to improve as the club turns the calendar to 2023.
Happy New Year from everyone in the Lumber Kings organization.