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Humboldt beats Victoria in overtime, advances to final at RBC Cup

NHL.com @NHL

VICTORIA, B.C. - The Humboldt Broncos are on the verge of joining a very exclusive club.

Shawn Hunter's scored 19:57 into overtime Friday as the Broncos beat the Victoria Grizzlies 3-2 to book a spot in the final at the RBC Cup.

The Broncos, who won the 2008 edition of the tournament in Cornwall, Ont., are attempting to repeat as champions. The 1990-91 Vernon Lakers and the 1981-82 Prince Albert Raiders are the only teams to win back-to-back titles in the Junior A championship's 38-year history.

Humboldt will face Vernon in the final after the Vipers beat the Kingston Voyageurs 6-3 in Friday's other semifinal.

Hunter poked the puck after into an empty net after a shot dribbled through Victoria goalie Anthony Grieco's legs and stopped just before the goal-line.

"Scotty Schroeder just threw it on net, a nice hard shot, and it just trickled through," said Hunter. "I was skating through the crease and just whacked (the puck) in. I almost missed (it) actually. I was a little excited too early maybe."

With the Broncos focused on repeating, the host Grizzlies nearly played spoiler.

Derek Lee opened the scoring for Victoria at 8:23 of the first with a quick shot from the slot on the power play, before Matt Kirzinger replied for Humboldt at 14:54 of the second to tie the game 1-1.

Justin Courtnall, the son of Grizzlies coach and former NHL player Geoff Courtnall, gave Victoria the lead again at 2:32 of the third, but Brady Wacker equalized for Humboldt less than three minutes later.

Victoria outshot Humboldt 40-31 on the night, with Humboldt goaltender Mathieu LaRochelle turning aside 11 shots in overtime.

"He was the difference," Humboldt coach and general manager Dean Brockman of LaRochelle. "If he didn't play as well as he did tonight, we don't win the hockey game. He was outstanding."

Victoria defenceman Jeff Forsythe felt his team deserved a better fate.

"It sucks losing that way, with two seconds left, especially with this team," he said."We thought we could or should have beat them and should be in playing Sunday against Vernon."

Brockman praised his team's effort to battle back and get the win.

"It's a game of seconds," said Brockman. "If you're a second too early or a second too late, it may cost you the hockey game. That's why you've gotta play right to the bitter end."

Wacker said the Broncos are excited at the prospect of repeating as RBC Cup winners.

"To do it last year and have a chance to do it again, it's a great feeling," said Wacker. "We want to do it for us (veterans) and the younger guys and the guys that haven't been here and let them experience it as well."

In the other semifinal, Cameron Brodie and Bryce Kakoske each scored twice as Vernon defeated Kingston.

Mike Collins and Cory Kane also scored for the Vipers.

Justin Levac, Ben Power and Jeff Blackburn replied for the Voyageurs, who represented Kingston at a national Junior A tournament for the first time in 42 years.

Kingston started the game in the penalty box as Jarrett Burton, one of the Voyageurs' top scorers at the tournament, received a 10-minute misconduct in the pre-game warm-up for crossing the centre-ice red-line. Tyler Hill then took a roughing penalty at the 58-second mark of the first.

Kakoske and Brodie proceeded to each score their first goals of the night as the Vipers buried on two of their first three shots on Kingston starting goaltender Shawn Sirman.

The Vipers led 3-0 after the first period and 5-0 after the second before Kingston scored a pair of power-play goals in the third.

Vernon went 4-for-10 on the power play, while Kingston went 2-for-7.

The Vipers outshot Kingston 34-16 while limiting the Voyageurs to just seven in the first 40 minutes. Cody Rosen replaced Sirman at the start of the third and allowed one goal on eight shots.

Vernon goaltender Andrew Hammond, a forgotten man most of the game because of his inactivity, recorded 13 saves.

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