Great weekend to be local sports fan

It certainly was an exciting weekend to be a sports fan here in Borderland.
Two of the three biggest reasons didn’t win a game over the weekend, but it’s the mere fact that they competed at all that’s noteworthy.
Firstly, the Muskie football team suited up for its first game of the season Friday afternoon, rolling out a fairly deep roster and remaining competitive with the visiting Elmwood Giants for much of the game before falling 26-8.
It just was a case of a couple of big plays that the Giants made stood for touchdowns while a couple of huge plays by the black-and-gold were called back because of penalties. Rookie mistakes, sure, but the Muskies are awash with freshmen.
Despite having a few adventures with the ball during the downpour that greeted the game, Muskie running back Tyler Abma seems to have the ability to take the team on his shoulders and keep pounding the ball.
While quarterback Tobijah Gerber tossed a couple of picks in his handful of pass attempts, he was able to drop in a touchdown for receiver Brad McDonald in the first quarter, which McDonald was able to haul in despite tight coverage.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how that tandem develops, and watch if any other Muskie receivers develop into deep threats.
On the other side of the ball, the black-and-gold were able to hold their own after Elmwood put a pair of quick majors on the board. Once the Giants bumped the scoreboard to 16 points, the Muskies were able to snuff out most Elmwood drives pretty quickly right up until its final points in the game’s dying seconds.
Coach Chad Canfield seems to have the team playing for him. And if he’s able to sustain the work ethic among his charges, the corresponding skill development should come about.
Canfield stressed after the game that it was closer than the 18 points on the scoreboard, and that certainly was the case.
A more experienced team, such as Elmwood, would have been less likely to take a penalty to negate a game-shifting play.
And so for the young Muskies, the onus is on getting in those snaps and that experience in order to develop savvy players for coming years.
Secondly, the Borderland Roller Derby held its debut event, “Bordertown Shutdown,” on Saturday night at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
Getting the event together was a huge step for the organization given the team was still in its pipe dream stages up until around Easter. But since the spring, the ladies of the “Fort Freak Show” have put in countless hours learning the basics of the game and honing the skills necessary to compete safely.
Sure, the skilled Winnipeg jammers—clearly the most poised competitors out there on the flat-track surface—skated circles around the locals en route to a 178-82 victory. But just watching these women getting the chance to be rock stars was a sight to see.
It was especially gratifying considering that many of the participants took the plunge to try something radically different from what was being offered in the district, and hadn’t had the opportunity to be celebrated in this section of the Times in years (if ever).
The best part was it had a different atmosphere than any other adult sporting event I’d had the opportunity to check out in my short time here.
The cheers rained down loudly for both sides, and in the midst of the blocking and hitting and violent falls to the concrete, there was more sense of co-operation and solidarity than I’d ever seen at a live event.
And despite the clever, risque derby names, such as “Kris Myass” and “Shear Evil,” there was a sense of down-to-earthness among the spectacle that’s hard to explain.
The only quibble with the evening was the singing of the national anthems.
For being more of a counter-culture event, “God Save the Queen” (the Sex Pistols version, of course) may have set the tone a smidgen better.
Here’s hoping the “Derby Dolls” are able to track down some practice space and are able to put up a sophomore outing.
The third encouraging piece comes from a team that did win over the weekend, and, well, has been winning a lot lately.
Who would have thought that the Fort Frances Lakers—SIJHL doormats at this time last year and for the first half of the season—would have jelled and pulled off a convincing 5-0 pre-season record?
Not only that, but the Lakers netted more than twice as many goals as they allowed.
Sure, enthusiasm must be tempered and skepticism must linger until the real world hits this Friday when the defending champion Fort William North Stars pay a visit to the Ice For Kids Arena to kick off the regular season.
There are a lot of things going right, though, as the scorers are scoring and the defenders are defending.
Jon Sinclair racked up eight points in the five pre-season games, and the three-headed goaltending monster of Jameson Shortreed, Tyler Ampe, and new addition Derrick Peitsh all have benefited from a workload far less excessive than the one Shortreed was subjected to last season.
At this point, at least, it looks like the Lakers have things on track, with the best possible litmus test for that hypothesis will be lined up facing west starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
• • •
The SIJHL’s loss will be the NAHL’s gain as Devlin’s Jordan Davis, who suited up for the aforementioned North Stars last season en route to finishing third in league scoring, has joined the Topeka Road Runners for this season.
He may see a familiar face at various points as Bismarck Bobcats’ goalie Ryan Faragher again will be between the pipes for the defending Robertson Cup champs.
• • •
A little bit closer to home, a trio of local players are regional PeeWee ‘AAA’ all-stars.
Graeme Kitt, Tyler VanUden, and Cole Tymkin all cracked the team after a series of tryouts in Vermilion Bay.
The team will compete in the HNO branch championship in March, with the winner advancing to the All-Ontario PeeWee ‘AAA’ championships later that month.

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