HAMILTON -- There was a telling sequence during the East Division semifinal yesterday, and though it did not involve any players other than Casey Printers, it told all that was necessary.
Printers, maligned as a Hamilton Tiger-Cat and undoubtedly loved on the streets of Vancouver this morning, got into it verbally with a few fans after being forced out of bounds. Instead of ignoring the taunts, the 28-year-old quarterback turned and yelled at the leather-lungs, pointing at his chest.
Then, Printers proceeded to rip the hearts out of the Tiger-Cats and their diehard followers.
Printers, who could do nothing right for the Ticats in 23 games during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, led the B.C. Lions to an absorbingly entertaining 34-27 overtime victory at Ivor Wynne Stadium, passing for 360 yards and killing Hamilton's season with an eight-yard pass to Ian Smart in overtime.
The Lions will be in Montreal on Sunday afternoon to take on the Alouettes in the East final, with the winner going to the Grey Cup in Calgary.
That he was seen as a villain who ruined the Ticats' return to respectability in 2009 didn't bother Printers, who also ran for a 12-yard touchdown in the first half.
"I'm so cool with that," Printers, who was released by Hamilton last February and rejoined the Lions in September, said. "I'm so thankful for Hamilton. You guys don't understand the adversity I went through here.
"Because of the turmoil and all of the ups and downs, I'm able to be here and lead these guys and not get shaken up."
Ticats linebacker Otis Floyd saw the Printers who won the CFL's most outstanding player award with B.C. in 2004.
"He showed glimpses of the '04 Casey," Floyd said. "He is a guy who has got his confidence back. He was walking high, celebrating. If somebody said something to him, he was barking right back. Last year, you say something to him, he would have put his head down."
Printers had sloughed off any lingering effects of sprained thumb, and the Lions were primed to start booking hotel rooms in Montreal as the game got deeper into the fourth quarter. Paul McCallum of the Lions kicked a 33-yard field goal with 12 minutes left, giving the visitors a 26-16 lead, and added a single not long after.
But the Ticats weren't about to give their fans, who had not witnessed a playoff game at Ivor Wynne since 2001, an excuse to start filing to the exits before the final gun.
Just over two minutes remained in regulation when Nick Setta booted a 21-yard field goal to get the Ticats within eight points. A gut-clenching drive of 91 yards that ended with only 22 seconds left on the clock and home-town boy Dave Stala catching a nine-yard pass from Kevin Glenn for his second touchdown of the day meant only a two-point convert was required to tie the game. Hamilton got it when Glenn found a wide-open Marquay McDaniel from five yards.
But the pandemonium from the 27,430 in attendance -- a disappointing non-sellout number, considering Ivor Wynne holds 29,600 -- died fast in extra time. Martell Mallett rushed for 27 yards on the first play from scrimmage, setting up Smart for the touchdown When Hamilton got the ball, Glenn, who otherwise had an excellent day, was sacked and then threw an incomplete pass to Arland Bruce.
Glenn, who had 437 yards in the air, said the loss was as bitter as any he has had in the CFL. "It ranks pretty high, just because of the opportunity we had," Glenn said.
"When you play the kind of football at the end of the season, putting it all together with a home playoff game, we could not have had a better script. You don't get these opportunities all the time and we let it slip away. It's a hard pill to swallow."