By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009
You live a lifetime in a single season of pro hockey. It can be a whiplash experience that can span the continent.
Forward Spencer Carbery of Victoria began the season with the Fresno Falcons and goaltender Jonathan Boutin with the Victoria Salmon Kings. Now they are in the 2009 ECHL Kelly Cup final with the American Conference champion South Carolina Stingrays. After splitting the first two games, both before raucous capacity crowds of 6,400 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, the series is tied 1-1 and moves 7,269 kilometres south across the ECHL’s staggering geographic footprint to Charleston, S.C., for games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Even the governors have weighed in with the patented friendly wager usual in such situations. Sarah Palin of Alaska is to send Mark Sanford of South Carolina a king salmon if the Stingrays win and Sanford to ship Palin some she-crab soup, shrimp and grits if the Aces are victorious.
That Carbery or Boutin would be embroiled in any of this American governorship fishy business was a longshot.
“I was in shock when Fresno folded [mid-season in December] and it left my career in total uncertainty,” said Claremont Secondary-grad Carbery, by phone Tuesday in Charleston.
“I was bummed out and had no idea what I would do,” added the Racquet Club and Peninsula Panthers Junior B product, and Uplands member, who at 14 was age-group Victoria golf champion.
“We had one of the best teams in the ECHL in Fresno but even the several Blackhawks prospects assigned to the Falcons didn’t know where they would end up when the team went belly-up. Some of the Fresno players followed [Falcons coach] Matt Thomas to [ECHL] Stockton but the Thunder lineup was otherwise deep in Oilers prospects and there was only so much room. I would have loved to have come home to Victoria but the Salmon Kings were going well at the time and didn’t want to mess with their chemistry and so didn’t express any interest in me. My mom lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and I called [Stingrays head coach] Jared Bednar and he liked what I could offer on the ice. Then we have this incredible playoff run. It’s overwhelming to think, after all that has happened this season, that I am playing in the Kelly Cup final.”
Carbery led Penticton to the 2002 BCHL Interior Conference final in junior only to lose in Game 7 to captain Brad Farynuk and Vernon. Now Farynuk is captain of the Stingrays as he and Carbery attempt to win a Kelly Cup as teammates.
“Hockey is such a small world,” mused Carbery, who landed a U.S. NCAA athletic scholarship to the University of Alaska-Anchorage before finding a home at tiny St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and graduating with a degree in business administration.
Dad Brian Carbery is head golf coach at the University of Victoria and unable to be in Charleston this week with his son.
“The Vikes golf season has started but my dad calls me after every [Stingrays] game and we chat,” said the younger Carbery, who has three goals and 11 points for the Stingrays in 18 playoff games after 29 regular-season games in Fresno and 39 in Charleston.
Meanwhile, Boutin has been a revelation in the Stingrays net since being traded Jan. 30 from Victoria for future considerations and is 12-3 in the playoffs with a 2.64 goals-against average. When the Salmon Kings cast Boutin adrift in a three-way triangle, there was grumbling from Victoria fans that the club may have let the best of the three go. But Julien Ellis and Todd Ford were on NHL and AHL contracts with the parent Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose, respectively. Boutin, Tampa Bay’s third-round draft pick in 2003, was only on ECHL contract.
“We knew somebody had to go and I was the only guy without the NHL or AHL contract in that three-goalie Victoria crease. But I knew they were sending me to a good situation in South Carolina,” said Quebec Major Junior League-grad Boutin, by phone Tuesday.
“Before I left Victoria, which was doing really well at the time, I quipped to Mo [Victoria GM and head coach Mark Morrison] that I would see him again in the Kelly Cup final because I thought South Carolina had a good shot in the American Conference and Victoria could get there out of the National Conference. That would have really been something. But Alaska beat Victoria and so here we are against an excellent Aces team.”