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Bears tie ’Birds in Whistler exhibition

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Tony Tyler would have been proud.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house in Meadow Park arena on Tony Tyler Night (Sept. 22) as hockey fans turned out in droves watch a University of British Columbia Thunderbirds rematch against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

The two teams faced each other the night before at Thunderbird arena. UBC took a quick 2-1 lead in that game, before the Golden Bears stormed back in the third period to score three unanswered goals – two of which were short-handed.

In Whistler for the grudge match, the Golden Bears would have taken the early lead if not for the goaltending of rookie Chris Levesque, who had been playing for the Swan Valley Stampeders. The Bears outshot the ’Birds 18 to 2 in the first period, but couldn’t put one past Levesque.

The Bears got a break less than three minutes into the second period, with left winger Geoff Lynch – a former Thunderbird – finding an open corner. Right winger Kevin Marsh go the assist, and his 100 th point in the Western Conference. Levesque was perfect after the goal.

UBC turned up the intensity in the third period, and managed to score with just two minutes and 47 seconds left in regulation time.

Neither team could capitalize in the final minutes and the game went into sudden death overtime. Fans were treated to five minutes of unbelievable playoff-style hockey before the horn and a standing ovation finally brought the game to a close tied 1-1.

Player of the game honours went to Levesque, who stood on his head for three periods of hockey to make 40 saves on 41 shots.

"It was a good game and a good crowd," says Kerry Dennehy, who organized the game to raise money for the Whistler Minor Hockey Association. "We haven’t added everything up yet, but it will be a successful fund-raiser for minor hockey. The Thunderbirds like coming up here, and we’ll definitely be asking them back next year."

Last year the association had to dip into its coffers to make up costs after a decline in registration. Registration numbers are back up this year, and the funds will go towards team tournaments, player scholarships and league expenses.

The game also served as a memorial to Whistler’s Tony Tyler, a staunch supporter of minor hockey who died on Sept. 7 at the age of 50. His son Sandy dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff, and a Winterhawks jersey with Tyler’s name was retired in his honour.

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