Talk about underdogs.
Pictou County's Peewee AAA Crushers were ranked near the bottom of the pack heading into the Nova Scotia championship tournament over the weekend.
They'd never won provincial bragging rights, and at times during the playoffs, it seemed like it might not happen.
On home ice in Trenton, the team of 12- and 13-year-olds had pulled off just one win and lost three during the round robin.
But when it really counted, the Crushers pulled off what player Kiefer Avery calls "a miracle."
Pictou County defeated the Halifax Hawks in the semi-finals. And then, before a packed rink of hundreds of fans cheering them on, Pictou County captured the crown by upsetting the favourites – the TASA Ducks – another city team that only lost twice in the regular season.
The coach of the Crushers is a local boy who came home after a professional hockey career and is giving back.
Jon Sim, a former NHLer and member of the Stanley Cup-winning 1999 Dallas Stars, has been coaching for the last three years.
Sim says his job is to get the kids to work hard and believe.
'A little bit sweeter'
"When you're not supposed to do something and you do it, it makes it a little bit sweeter too, right?" he said. "I didn't count these guys out one bit."
The players include Sim's eldest son, Landon. He charged up the ice and back-handed the game-winning goal with 3.7 seconds left in the clock in Sunday's game.
"All the people are calling me Captain Clutch, all the other kids, and people from away in Nova Scotia," said Landon.
Sim says he used his NHL experience to inspire a dream in the next generation of hometown hockey players.
"I said we have three Stanley Cups here in Pictou County. I got one, Colin White, my good friend has two. But we do not have a Peewee triple A championship," he said.
'We all really wanted this'
He rallied the troops to win through leading by example.
"I left home when I was 16 years old, I'm 39 years old so that's all I've done for 23 years. That's what I know best," said Sim.
That message resonated with Abigail MacKenzie. The lone girl on the team, she plays defence.
"We all worked really hard because we all really wanted this," she said. "Jon pushes us really hard and makes us better hockey players." she said.
'Breaking the jinx'
To remind the players of their historic mission in the weeks leading up to the final, they wore rubber bracelets printed with their goal: "Breaking the Jinx".
Those bracelets have been snapped to symbolize that the nearly 30-year jinx is broken, finally.
"It's pretty special, this group of kids. Hopefully we can keep going now, right guys?" said Sim.
The team leaves for Newfoundland and Labrador next week to play for the top prize. Champion teams from the four Atlantic provinces and the host team from Conception Bay will compete in the Atlantics.