Bobby Baun is a legend in hockey lore for scoring an overtime goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup final while playing on a broken ankle.
But could he have done it on a broken skate blade? It’s not likely, but Tyler VanUden proved Sunday it is possible.
After netting the equalizer late in the third period, VanUden made good on a breakaway 2:51 into overtime to give the Fort Frances Boston Pizza Royals a 4-3 win over the Dryden Paper Kings in the gold-medal game of the local PeeWee ‘AA’ squad’s annual home tournament.
“I was down by the bench taking pictures when someone asked me if Tyler had an extra pair of skates because his skate was broken,” said proud father and team photographer, Len VanUden.
“I didn’t so I thought, ‘Well, that’s it, he’s done.’
“The next thing I knew, I looked around and there he was, back on the ice,” his dad recalled.
“He’s just so passionate about the game.”
VanUden’s refusal to leave the game proved to be a title-saving decision after Dryden took a 3-2 lead with 6:11 left in regulation time on a goal by Keith Wrolstad.
After smacking home a rebound of Graeme Kitt’s wrap-around attempt with 2:07 to go in the third, VanUden found himself in the right place at the right time after the puck was cleared out of the Royals’ zone during overtime.
Finding an extra gear, VanUden outraced a Paper Kings’ defender to the loose puck in the neutral zone and walked in alone on the Dryden goal before pulling off a scintillating deke and depositing the puck behind the goalie.
When the VanUdens returned home later that night and the hockey bag was emptied, the skate in question was pulled out—and there was the blade, nearly split in two, but like its wearer, able to hang on long enough to get the job done.
“He’s a sharpshooter and a heck of a goal scorer,” lauded Royals’ coach Ed Vold about VanUden, who finished second in tournament scoring with six goals and five assists for 11 points in five games, one point behind Kitt (six goals and six assists).
“Whenever he picks up the puck with the game on the line, we feel pretty confident we’re going to win,” Vold added.
Dryden had opened the scoring at 2:12 of the second period on a goal by Troy Williams, but Kitt responded 49 seconds later to square the affair heading into the final frame.
Kitt tallied his second of the game at 2:20 of the third, only to have Trey Palermo pull Dryden even 24 seconds later before Wrolstad put the visitors in front at 8:49.
But Royals’ goalie Dylan Ossachuk slammed the door shut after that, setting the stage for VanUden’s heroics.
The overtime goal by VanUden, who won the shooting portion of the skills competition at a tournament the previous weekend in Bemidji, Mn., touched off bedlam on the Fort Frances bench as the players poured onto the ice in celebration in front of a similarly-ecstatic home crowd.
“The kids were hugging each other and then looked around and saw us adults on the bench hugging, too,” laughed Vold.
“It was like we were kids again ourselves.”
The victory was the pinnacle of what Vold called a “two-week challenge” he issued his team, which included the trip to Bemidji, where the Royals suffer several sizable defeats.
“I told them ahead of the Bemidji tournament we were going to be in tough,” noted Vold, who watched his team lose by scores such as 8-0 and 12-2 in the Minnesota tourney.
“We lost by some big scores to some bigger, older teams,” he recalled. “But I told them if we went there and worked hard, when we came back, we’d be better.
“When this tournament started, we just came flying out of the gate.
“Dryden’s really well-coached and a lot of the boys on both teams know each other through playing together during summer hockey and they’re chatting with each other all the time on the computer,” continued Vold.
“We’ve played them five or six times already this year and they’ve won a couple and we’ve won a couple.
“So it’s a good, friendly rivalry.”
Other than in Sunday’s final, the Royals were barely tested during the weekend, starting with an 8-2 rout of the Thunder Bay Elks in their tournament opener Friday afternoon.
Fort Frances jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the 6:39 mark of the second period on a pair of goals by Cameron Turriff and singles from Tanner Angus, Baeley Fulford, Noah Loveday, and VanUden, with Kitt picking up three assists.
Cole Tymkin and VanUden, with his second, rounded out the Royals’ scoring. Jacob Brown and Garrett Gammond were the only Thunder Bay skaters to solve Ossachuk, who earned the win between the pipes.
The formula for success was almost identical in the Royals’ second outing—a 6-1 thrashing of the Sioux Lookout Junior Flyers that evening.
The Royals built a 4-0 advantage seven minutes into the third, then scored twice in a 26-second span in the final three minutes of the game to deliver the knockout blow.
Kitt had a pair of goals to pace Fort Frances in that one while Loveday, Brett Hahkala, VanUden, and Austin Angus added singles.
Turriff collected three assists while Parker Orchard was solid in goal, allowing only Elijah Loon-Stewardson’s third-period marker.
Ossachuk returned to the cage and posted a shutout in helping the Royals to a 6-0 whitewash of International Falls on Saturday morning in the squad’s final preliminary-round game.
A four-goal first period salted the game away early for the Royals, with Loveday scoring bookend goals on either side of markers by Jordan Taggart and Angus.
Hahkala then added a pair of his own in the second.
By finishing first with a 3-0 mark, the Royals earned a semi-final rematch with the Elks, who went 1-2 to come in fourth in the preliminary round.
The result was more of the same, with Orchard getting the shutout this time around in a 5-0 victory.
The hosts went after Thunder Bay early, with Kitt, VanUden, and Loveday all bulging the twine in the opening stanza to stake the Royals to a 3-0 lead.
Kitt then picked up his second goal of the contest with the lone marker of the second before Tymkin punctuated the win with another tally at 1:09 of the third.
The Royals return to tournament action Jan. 28-30 when they head to Warroad, Mn.