Brian Kilrea's final regular-season game behind the Ottawa 67's bench resulted in a fitting and familiar outcome on Sunday.
The winningest coach in Canadian major junior hockey history added one final victory to his record 1,193 wins after the Ottawa 67's defeated the Kingston Frontenacs 5-3 in Ontario Hockey League action.
Logan Couture had three goals, Cody Lindsay scored once and added an assist and Ryan Martindale had Ottawa's other goal as the 67's gave their retiring coach a going-away gift that he'd appreciate - the 12th 40-win season of his career.
"I'm glad we won. It was a good test for us as I'm concerned in getting ready for the playoffs," said Kilrea, who will retire from coaching following the conclusion of the playoffs after 32 seasons in charge of Ottawa's Ontario Hockey League franchise.
"There is no such thing as an unimportant game," he added.
The 67's (40-21-5-2) finished third in the Eastern Conference and will face the sixth-seeded Niagara IceDogs in the opening round of the post-season, beginning Friday, so Kilrea still has at least another four games behind Ottawa's bench.
"Hopefully, it's more than a few," said Kilrea, who's already committed to remaining on as the team's general manager when assistant Chris Byrne takes over the head-coaching duties next year.
During an almost 40-minute pre-game ceremony, Kilrea, surrounded by friends, family and former players, received video messages from his former Springfield Indians teammate and friend Don Cherry and TV sidekick Ron MacLean, as well as from former 67's goaltender-turned-broadcaster Darren Pang and Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.
Gretzky praised Kilrea's teams for playing hockey "the way the game should be played: hard, skating and puck-moving."
The tributes, as well as a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 10,000, choked up the normally stoic Kilrea, who couldn't quite get through his speech before having to pause to gather himself.
"I knew as soon as I saw some of those things up on the board it was going to be tough," he said. "It was a little tough reading through my glasses.
"I'm really comfortable behind the bench. I'm not really comfortable (speaking) in front of 10,000 fans."
It was Sept. 27, 1974, when Kilrea stepped behind the 67's bench for the first time, picking up his first victory with a 9-5 triumph over the Toronto Marlboros.
Elsewhere in the OHL, it was: Mississauga 5, Sudbury 4 (OT); Brampton 5, Oshawa 4 (SO); Plymouth 6, Sarnia 1; and Erie 4, Guelph 1.
At Ottawa, The 67's took an early 2-0 lead, but the Frontenacs, already eliminated from playoff contention, rallied to tie the game 55 seconds into the second period.
With the score 3-3 late in the second, Couture snapped a shot past Parks for his second goal of the game what turned out to be the winner.
Nathan Moon scored twice and Andris Dzerins had a goal and an assist for the Frontenacs (18-40-6-4).
Mavric Parks stopped 43 shots for Kingston. Chris Perugini made 29 saves for Ottawa before being replaced by Adam Courchaine to start the third. Courchaine blocked all 11 shots he faced the rest of the way.
"Before the game, I was real excited for the ceremony and to see all the people that were here tonight and on the ice," said Couture, the 67's captain. "It was exciting on the ice. We were all proud of Killer, he gave a great speech and we really wanted to pull out this one for him. We didn't play our best hockey, it wasn't pretty but we just got the win for him. It was special."
Majors 5, Wolves 4 (OT)
At Mississauga, Ont., William Wallen scored three minutes into overtime to give the Majors the win over Sudbury, which still managed to clinch the final playoff spot despite the loss.
Mississauga was down 4-3 heading into the third period but tied the game early on Devante Smith-Pelly's second goal of the game. Jared Gomes and Jordan Mayer scored the other goals for the Majors (39-26-1-2). Gomes also added a pair of assists.
The Wolves picked up a point for the overtime loss. Coupled with Oshawa's shootout loss against the Brampton Battalion, one point was all Sudbury needed to grab the eighth and last playoff spot in the conference.
Marcus Foligno, Matt Dias, Eric O'Dell and Peter Hermenegildo scored for the Wolves (26-35-3-4), who will meet the Belleville Bulls, the Eastern Conference champions, in the first round of the playoffs.
Battalion 5, Generals 4 (SO)
At Brampton, Ont., Matt Duchene and Cody Hodgson both scored in the shootout to help the Battalion spoil Oshawa's chance at a playoff spot.
Hodgson and Anthony Peluso also scored in regulation for Brampton (47-19-1-1), which finished second in the East Division and will face the seventh-seeded Peterborough Petes in the first round. The series starts Friday night in Brampton.
Robert Kousal, Tyler Taylor, Victor Terreri and Kory Nagy replied for the Generals (25-35-2-6), who needed a win combined with a regulation loss for the Sudbury Wolves in order to grab the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Whalers 6, Sting 1
At Plymouth, Mich., the Whalers secured fourth place in the Western Conference by trouncing Sarnia.
Tyler G. Brown scored twice to go along with single goals from Matt Caria, Vern Cooper, Tyler J. Brown and Michal Jordan. Tyler Seguin chipped in three assists and AJ Jenks had two helpers for Plymouth (37-26-5-0), which was tied with the Sting and the Guelph Storm heading into Sunday. The Whalers will face Sarnia in the first round of the playoffs.
Justin DiBenedetto scored the lone goal for the Sting (35-26-4-3).
Otters 4, Storm 1
At Erie, Pa., Justin Hodgman led the way with a goal and an assist as the Otters defeated Guelph.
Michael Liambas, Sean Jones and Luke Gazdic also scored for Erie (34-29-3-2).
Peter Holland had the lone reply for the Storm (35-26-4-3), who failed to move into fifth in the west and will face the Saginaw Spirit in the opening round of the playoffs.