The 1997 Lewis Cup Finals began in New York City on May 30 with the hometown Civics facing the Kansas City Twisters. There was a buzz throughout the city as 22300 fans packed into Broadway House for game one. The Civics had not reached the final since their last Cup victory in 1975, while the Twisters, founded in 1989, were making their first appearance in the championship series.
Game one was close, with 19-year veteran Clark Pratt opening the scoring in the first period. It appeared the Civics had the win as both Jason Wyley and Jason Lind playing very well in net. Suddenly, just a minute after Pratt’s goal, Magnus Swedberg scored for Kansas City to tie the game. Despite a late push from each team, the game would go to overtime, where Darian Ashmore proved to be the hero, as Kansas City took game one. Game two would also go into overtime, with Ashmore once again getting an opportunity to win it. Wyley made the save, then stopped several more KC chances, before Aaron Duplacy finally ended the game and tied the series near the end of the first overtime. “We obviously would’ve like to win both games at home but this is a big win for us. We’ll take the split” said Duplacy.
The series moved on to Kansas City, where the Twisters hoped to use the home ice advantage they had stolen. However, the Twisters couldn’t even get on the board in game three. Jason Wyley stopped 42 shots in a 2-0 New York win. Game four was closer, as the teams battled through a 2-2 tie until Jeremy Kitchen scored to put the Civics ahead. Tim Dixon sealed the win with an empty-netter and the Civics were now just one win away.
A win was critical for Kansas City in game five back on Broadway if they wanted to continue the series. The building was packed once again as New York anticipated a home-ice victory. Though the Civics opened the scoring, Kansas City quickly responded with a pair of goals from Brett Delaney and Dave Mack to give the Twisters the lead. New York pushed to regain it but could not solve Lind while Ashton Nichol and Elliot Andrews each scored to increase the gap to 4-1 and secure a key win for the Twisters. The series would now head back to Kansas City with the pressure now on the Civics.
Prior to game six, the Civics received devastating news. Goaltender Jason Wyley had been hit high with a shot late in game five and woke up with severe concussion symptoms. Backup Brad Thorne would start for New York as the Civics had another opportunity to claim the title. Thorne was tested early, as the Civics took two penalties early on. Kansas City pressed for the opening goal but Thorne met every challenge. Finally, with the second penalty over, Grant Sibley scored a big goal to give New York the lead. Midway through the second period, Gustav Janssen made it 2-0. Kansas City finally got on the board three minutes later on a goal from Scott Drayton, but the Twisters couldn’t keep pace with the Civics, who extended the lead thanks to a goal from Darian Higgins. New York clung to a 3-1 lead until just four minutes remaining, when Travis Watson brought the Twisters to within one. As Kansas City pulled Jason Lind for the extra attacker. The Twisters pushed hard for the tying goal but Brad Thorne met the challenge. With just four seconds left, Dave Mack had the puck on his stick with an open net, but Thorne slid across the goalmouth just in time to get his stick on the puck a redirected it away from the net just as the final buzzer sounded. As the Civics mobbed their goaltender, Back in New York Broadway House erupted as fans watched on a big screen. For the first time since 1975, the New York Civics were Lewis Cup Champions. Aaron Duplacy accepted the Cup from Darryl Byrd and after skating a lap with it, passed it off to Clark Pratt, who would likely announce his retirement after 19 PHL seasons, all with the Civics. The Twisters remained optimistic in spite of the disappointing loss. “We just weren’t quite ready yet” said Dave Mack. “I think these kids are getting better every year and winning a championship is the next step. We’ll get there.”