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Flann's Grizzlies claim Cyclone Taylor Cup

Whistler puckster looks back on incredible campaign
FLANN-TASTIC Whistler s Cody Flann raises the Cyclone Taylor Cup after his Revelstoke Grizzlies downed the Victoria Cougars on April 14. Photo submitted

Whistler hockey player Cody Flann and the Revelstoke Grizzlies capped a season for the ages in Campbell River on April 14.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) champion Grizzlies toppled the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League winners, the Victoria Cougars, 5-1 to claim the club's first provincial title since 2010.

"It was pretty amazing. To work so hard for that long and winning with a bunch of guys that you lay your body on the line for, there's no better feeling than that," he said. "It was really amazing."

Unfortunately for Flann, he didn't suit up for the championship game after suffering a concussion in the final round-robin game against the host Campbell River Storm.

"It was really unfortunate, obviously. I really wanted to play that last game, but I had to play it safe," he said. "I didn't want to ruin my brain.

"I had confidence in our team. Our depth was amazing all year and I was still confident we were going to win."

His gut was correct and he joined fellow Whistlerites Tyler Welsh and Ryan Grills, who won with Campbell River in 2015, as Cyclone Taylor champs.

Though the Grizzlies fell behind 1-0 in the final, and though they lost to the Cougars in the opening game of the tournament, Flann said there was never a moment's doubt that Revelstoke was capable of bringing home the title.

"We stuck to our system the whole time. We played a pretty defence-first, hard-nosed, hit-everything-that-moves (style)," he said. "A lot of the teams in other leagues don't hit as much as we do in the KI, so that was a big advantage. They try to go toe-to-toe with us, but we have the upper edge at the end of it."

Playing three entirely new opponents (the North Vancouver Wolf Pack from the Pacific Junior Hockey League was also in the tournament) didn't faze the Grizzlies, Flann said.

"Leagues are a lot different than the KI. We lost our first game, so we all realized it's not going to be easy at all," he said. "They're all champions, (but) we know how to win. We've just got to play even harder. That's what our difference was: we just never stopped working hard."

During the KIJHL regular season, the Grizzlies won a mind-boggling 42 of their 49 games before blazing through the league playoffs, losing just three times. On the heels of the Tampa Bay Lightning's stunning four-game sweep at the Columbus Blue Jackets' hands, it's clear that a dominant regular season doesn't always translate to the playoffs. However, Flann said that after making a run to KIJHL finals last spring, the Grizzlies were primed for postseason contention once again. It didn't hurt that they regularly had to play two other juggernauts in the Kimberley Dynamiters and Kelowna Chiefs, who both had 43 wins.

"We knew how hard it was to win and we knew what we wanted," he said. "We just didn't give in. We played the two best teams in the province, being Kimberley and Kelowna, and we beat them both. There's no turning back after that."

Flann was second on the team in scoring during the regular season with 55 points, including 22 goals, and he chipped in another 15 points (eight goals) in the playoffs. He had three points in three games at the Cyclone Taylor Cup tournament.

"I felt like I definitely took a step. I was more relied on than last year as a rookie," he said. "I had some great linemates and some great teammates that helped me all the way. My game improved, for sure."

Flann's injury kept him off the ice for the championship game, but he has also had to miss some of the revelry back in Revelstoke.

"Some of the boys have been going out, but I've been trying to keep it chill as much as I can," he said. "I'm feeling a lot better, so I'll be all good."

Flann isn't sure of his future plans, as he is weighing offers from Jr. 'A' teams to play a level higher, but he has also been accepted into UBC Okanagan to continue his education. While there's no hockey program there, Flann noted that many of his friends are enrolled in the Kelowna school.

"I just have to decide. I have to talk to my family and see what's best for me. I still have time to decide, so hopefully I make the right decision," he said.