Allan Cup players show all that’s right in sports

There once was a time when the Allan Cup was a truly big deal across Canada, when the top senior amateur men’s players in the country (and sometimes even the United States) would square off for arguably the second-biggest prize in hockey at the time.
In recent years, though, the event unfortunately has fallen by the wayside in the sports fans’ subconsciousness. The only time you may hear about the final (unless your local team is involved) is through a small article in the newspaper, or stumbling upon the game on television as it airs between showings of the Westminster dog show and Aberdeen dart finals.
It’s a shame, really, that the tournament doesn’t get the attention it once did. Even though the quality of play may not be up to the fast-flowing action fans will be accustomed to in the Stanley Cup playoffs that begin this week, the passion the players on the ice this week in Kenora still have for the game cannot be denied.
The six teams in this year’s tournament, including the Fort Frances Thunderhawks, consist of players that have played all over the map, with NHL, Major Junior, minor pro, collegiate, and even European experience scattered all over their resumes.
Whether they are in their early 20s, or even sometimes into their mid-40s, the fact that these guys are willing to take part in an national event—sometimes thousands miles away from their families—simply for the love of the game is something that’s worth celebrating and admiring.
Here’s hoping that as time goes on, those of us who love the game of hockey continue to remember that—and to make sure this historic event doesn’t fall by the wayside.
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While Joe Basaraba’s recent national title triumph is one of the biggest for a Fort Frances player in quite some time, another local took home a championship of his own Saturday night.
Kyle Turgeon and the Portage Terriers captured the MJHL title for the third time in four years with a 5-2 victory over the Selkirk Steelers, which gave them a 4-1 series victory to take possession of the Turnbull Cup once again.
The 20-year-old Turgeon, who scored his third goal of the post-season in Saturday’s series-clincher to give him eight points for the playoffs, now is waiting to see who his team will face in the Anavet Cup final as the SJHL championship series between the Yorkton Terriers and the La Ronge Ice Wolves was headed to a seventh game yesterday evening.
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Unfortunately, another local hockey product saw his season came to an end Saturday evening as Mitch Cain and the Des Moines Buccaneers missed out on making the USHL playoffs.
The 19-year-old Cain, who is set to play for Bemidji State next season, had 19 goals and eight assists in 58 games this season, which was a six-point improvement over his totals from a year ago.
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Meanwhile in the NAHL, two local players still are alive in the post-season as Fort Frances native Ryan Faragher and Devlin’s Jordan Davis both are heading to the division finals.
Davis, who has a goal and three assists so far in the playoffs, helped the top-seeded Topeka Roadrunners to a 3-2 South Division semi-final series victory over the Wichita Falls Wildcats on Monday evening, and now is preparing to face the Amarillo Bulls in a best-of-five series starting Friday.
Faragher, whose fourth-seeded Bismarck Bobcats knocked off the Central Division champion Alexandria Blizzard on Monday, will take his 1-1 record and 4.92 GAA into this Friday’s divisional final series-opener with the Coulee Region Chill.
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The SIJHL season came to an end Friday night as the expansion Wisconsin Wilderness swept aside the Dryden Ice Dogs to capture the Bill Salonen Cup with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory officially bringing an end to the proceedings.
Towering goalie John McLean captured the Sportop playoff MVP honours as the 20-year-old from Eagan, Mn. wrapped up the post-season with a stellar 9-1 record and 1.90 GAA.
The Wilderness now are heading to the the Dudley Hewitt Cup in Huntsville from April 19-23, where they will take on the host Otters and the NOJHL champion Soo (Mich.) Eagles.
The final spot in the tournament was up for grabs last night in Game 6 of the OJHL championship series, where the Wellington Dukes led the defending Dudley Hewitt Cup champion Oakville Blades 3-2.
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Finally, unless you’ve been living under a rapidly melting snowbank over the last few weeks, tonight marks the start of the NHL playoffs (or, if you’re a fan of the Florida Panthers, the race for Miami Heat playoff tickets).
Now if you recall a couple of weeks ago, I made an attempt at some baseball predictions in this column, which so far aren’t looking quite so hot. (Have you seen the Boston Red Sox pitching lately? What a fine pick that was).
As such, I won’t give a full on, massive prediction spiel once again, but I will give you who I think will be the two teams facing off for Lord Stanley’s mug in a few weeks’ time: the Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks.
Why? Well, because at some point, the poster children for playoff underachieving will have to make the final, and what better time than this season when other teams such as the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers have been talked as title contenders.
But since I just made that prediction, I now would like to congratulate the fans of the New York Rangers and L.A. Kings in advance, as I have just assured the fact that your teams are about to pull off first-round upsets.

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