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Claimed:BLEH [Final: 6/6]


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It’s a scene that any kid who’s ever strapped a pair of skates on knows well. Championship series. Game seven. Sudden death overtime. It’s been played out on driveways and frozen rinks for years, but on the last day of the VHL’s first decade, one rookie got to live out the dream and kick the VHL into a new era.

 

As the first decade of play in the VHL wound down, two powerhouse teams began to emerge. On the North American side, the Toronto Legion emerged from the shadow of the dynastic Calgary Wranglers. While the Legion had been in the VHL since its inception, they had been smothered by the Wranglers and the Seattle Bears, who both dominated the North American conference.

 

By the time S7 rolled around, the Legion were emerging as a new threat. When it came time for the S9 playoffs, they were entering their prime and swept an aging Wranglers team to face off against a rising European power- the Riga Reign.

 

In S8, the Stockholm Rams relocated to Latvia to become the Reign. In their first season, they fought tooth and nail to take down the Vasteras IK in seven games and win the European Conerence playoffs. In the finals, they pushed the Calgary Wranglers to six games, but were unable to beat the veteran squad.

 

The next year, they finished atop their conference and bowled over the Helsinki Titans in a four games, winning a ticket to face the Legion in the finals.

 

The two star-laden teams traded blows relentlessly and forced each other into seven games. In this first meeting of giants, the Legion managed to pull out a regulation win in game seven, bringing the Continental Cup to Toronto for the first time and helping cement their role in VHL history.

 

This wasn’t the last of either team however, as they found themselves facing off in the Continental Cup finals once more the next year. The league was buzzing with hype, hoping for a repeat of the previous year’s excitement. On one side, the Toronto Legion could establish themselves as a dynasty with a win in the series. On the other, Riga was thirsty for their first championship after coming short in the finals two years in a row. The stage was set for one of the greatest match-ups the VHL had ever seen.

 

Once again the teams fought a phenomenal series. They traded wins and found themselves in a seventh game for the second year in a row. This time, when the horn rung after sixty minutes, the score was tied. The VHL was about to enter a sudden death overtime for the Continental Cup for the first time in its history.

 

Both squads came out flying, and seven minutes into the overtime the Legion’s Kevin Brooks fired a puck at the net. Branden Snelheid redirected the shot, and the puck drifted towards an open cage, only to deflect off the post with a quick ping. This opened up the opportunity for Riga, and a few minutes later the team’s star rookie Zak Rawlyk found himself with the puck. With the world on his stick, he walked in and wired a shot. The red light lit up.

 

Zak Rawlyk had delivered the Reign their first Continental Cup.

 

In the years to come both teams would have to wait to win another cup, but for two glorious seasons, the Legion and Reign set a fire under the league. This helped to carry the VHL into its second decade, and keep the spirit and history of the league alive for years to come.  

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