PORT HARDY—The Warriors notched up another win for Gilbert Walkus Jr. at the former number 10’s memorial game last weekend.
The Don Cruikshank Memorial Arena stands filled up Saturday afternoon to watch the Port Hardy Warriors face off against the Port Hardy Bulls in the 3rd annual memorial game.
After the Warriors’ Brian Texmo welcomed the crowd, players and spectators observed a minute’s silence before Walkus’s son Braden won the ceremonial puck drop and went one-on-one with Bulls goalie Colin Hunko, stylishly shimmying before bring the puck across to his right and slotting home.
He then moonwalked back down the ice to the cheers of the appreciative crowd.
At one stage, it wasn’t certain that the Walkus family, now living in Vancouver, could make the game. The Warriors surprised the family by offering to pay for Braden’s bus ride.
Braden’s mom Crystal went one better, surprising the Warriors by driving up for the game. “Bray[den] kept bugging me to come, so in the end I just drove up to surprise these guys,” she said. “I’m so happy to be here.”
The players made it a great game for the spectators, the 7-2 score belying how tight the game was for long periods.
After a scrappy start from both teams, the Warriors seemed to settle first but couldn’t find a way through the Bulls’ defence. The Bulls began crafting their own chances, getting the puck into the Warrior’s zone but unable to find clear shots.
Then the Warriors’ Shelby Cockell came alive and broke the deadlock with 12:14 on the clock. A long pass straight up the middle by Brett Demoe split the Bulls’ defence and Cockell pounced on the puck to slot home.
Twenty seconds later, he repeated the feat with a carbon copy of the first, Eddie Walkus the supplier this time.
Six minutes later, Cockell completed his hat trick with a clinical solo effort.
The Bulls can never be accused of a lack of heart, and Cockell’s third seemed to shift the Bulls’ game up a gear. Surging forward with a purpose, the Bulls began linking up in the final third, forcing the Warriors onto the back foot and finding more chances.
They were rewarded with two minutes left in the period, Shawn Desrosiers supplying Brad Zealand with a shot, Zealand making no mistake with the finish.
A minute later, the Bulls were right back in it as a rare defensive error from the Warriors led to a second goal. Lucas Noel pounced on a Warriors defenceman who was a little overconfident in turning his back while taking the puck behind his own goal.
Noel stripped the puck and supplied Richard Burgess, who cooly put the puck into the roof of the net just before the ice-cleaning break.
The second half was a tight, end-to-end affair, both sides carving out half chances.
It took thirteen minutes to break the impasse, and even then it took a double penalty on the Bulls before Texmo reopened the Warriors’ account with a goal-seeking missile on the power play.
Then the floodgates opened, as Walkus bundled one in, Corey Swain added another, and Walkus struck again to make it seven.
As Texmo said after the game, “It was good hockey. There was some good forechecking and backchecking. We started playing more as a team towards the end.”
Both sides came to play, and it made for a entertaining game to watch. Immediately after the final buzzer, both teams took to the ice with members of the Walkus family for photographs, and front and centre was the No. 10 jersey of the man it was all about.
From the turnout and the players’ obvious respect, it was clear that this is one legacy that will last on the North Island for a long, long time to come.