Thursday, July 7, 2016

1979 Lewis Cup Finals

The Minnesota Lumberjacks went into the 1979 Lewis Cup Finals as the clear favorites, but there was no question Toronto had the most fan support. “Canada’s Team” had not reached the finals since the last time they won the title in 1964 and Racers fever was sweeping the country. Over 16,000 fans packed the Twin Cities Forum for game one, and they would get to go home happy as Jimmy Andrews, Phil Reid, and Will Cody each scored in a 3-1 Minnesota win. Game two would be more of the same, with Minnesota taking an early 3-0 lead. Toronto would attempt to mount a comeback with two goals in the third period from Charlie Fisher and Alan Knight, but it would be too little too late as Reid scored the empty-netter to seal the victory for Minnesota and a 2-0 series lead. Game three would be an emotional one at the Queen Elizabeth Arena, with the noise from the sellout crowd nearly bringing the aging building down. Former Racers legends Mark Benson, Bobby Kitchen, and Don Fredericks were also in attendance, adding to the atmosphere. The Racers rode the emotion to a hard-fought 3-2 victory thanks to goals from Knight, Ted Lovell, and Joe Dowling. Game four would go to four overtimes, making it the longest game in Lewis Cup Finals history. Late in the third overtime, Toronto goaltender Ralph Morello made an enormous glove save on Guy Dupont, earning a standing ovation. Finally, Toronto tough guy Rex Hull ended the marathon with a scrappy goal from the side of the net to tie the series 2-2 while the celebration in the stands spilled onto Yorke Street and throughout downtown Toronto. For the first time in the series, Toronto fans truly felt like they had a chance to win it all. 

Game five back in Minneapolis would be another close one. Charlie Fisher scored early for Toronto before Phil Reid tied it for Minnesota just minutes later. The game remained tied through two more periods to go into overtime once again. It would end much quicker this time, however, as Guy Dupont, who was without a goal all series, won the faceoff, passed the puck to Roland Webb who took a shot. Morello made the first stop but Dupont was right on the doorstep and tapped it in to give the Lumberjacks the win. Minnesota was one win away from the Lewis Cup. Back in Toronto for game six, the Racers played admirably with their backs against the wall. Minnesota went up 2-0 early thanks to goals from Dupont and Reid. Late in the second period, Toronto pulled within one on a goal from Todd Beirness. Just seconds into the third, however, Reid scored his second of the game to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead. The Racers tried furiously to tie the game, peppering Bobby Sorel with shots throughout the third, but Sorel was more than up for the challenge. Time eventually wound down and the Lumberjacks players poured off the bench and mobbed Sorel. Despite their disappointment, the sellout crowd at Queen Elizabeth gave their team another standing ovation in appreciation for what the Racers accomplished. As Alan Garcia handed Guy Dupont the Lewis Cup, the Lumberjacks mobbed their captain, all trying to touch the Cup. After years of playoff failures and heartbreak, the Minnesota Lumberjacks were finally Lewis Cup Champions for the second time.

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