Fort Frances, hosts, wins post-pandemic tourney

By Allan Bradbury
Staff writer

The Fort Frances Canadians Minor Hockey Association has hosted its first tournament since the COVID-19 Pandemic derailed things over a year and a half ago. The U15 AA tournament saw teams from Dryden, and Thunder Bay fight through wintry weather to make it to town.

The Fort Frances Canadians took home the win this weekend after a hard-fought tournament. They topped the tournament after preliminary play with two regulation wins and two shootout wins. And then went on to win the semi-final game 4-0 and the championship game 3-2.

There were some doubts on Friday that all the teams would be able to get to Fort Frances, as sections of the highway were closed due to poor conditions, but aside from some late arrivals and some re-scheduling, the teams were able to play all of the games for the tournament.

Travis Enge was one of the tournament organisers.

“As you might know, the highways were closed until about noon,” Enge said. “Once they opened people were patient, and ready to go and they were able to safely get here and we were able to pull off the tournament. Unfortunately four teams had to play three games in one day, which is not ideal but they were up for the challenge and we got it done.”

Two of the earlier games on Friday had to be moved to earlier Saturday morning and later Saturday night as a result of the delays but all the games were played.

When it comes to the COVID difficulties, Enge says he doesn’t know of any issues that had arisen as of Saturday evening.

“Everybody’s pretty used to [COVID Precautions] nowadays, and it went just fine,” Enge said. “We made some announcements about mask wearing but it looks like everyone is well used to it and I think we had a safe tournament.”

Enge is optimistic that tournaments can continue throughout the season.

“Knock on wood as long as numbers stay down and we don’t start into another wave or anything like that, I’m hoping that the future tournaments will go ahead,” Enge said. “There are more coming up and I just hope it can all be just like this one was, because it felt really good to see all the kids out on the ice and to have a good competitive tournament.”

On the ice, the Canadians played well according to coach Cody Mosbeck.

“I thought the team played great the entire weekend,” Mosbeck said. “They did a really good job of mentally battling through tough spots in games and being focused on the way that they were playing and the way they need to play to do well. I would say that I’m not overly surprised by it, we’re pretty fortunate to have a good group of kids so it makes it easy when that’s the case.”

Mosbeck says the Canadians had some exciting games. Two of the games went to a shootout to be decided when they were tied after three periods.

“It was pretty funny, we hadn’t even worked on shootouts in practices yet,” Mosbeck said. “So then it was pretty fun and in both cases Coiner [goalie Jarrett Aucoin] was the goalie who was in for us in both the shootouts and he did a great job battling and stopping shots and getting us the win.”

The Sunday morning semifinal between the Canadians and Northern Selects went to the Canadians 4-0. The final against the North End Flames was a bit tighter, Mosbeck says.

“We played tied at 2-2 for the majority of the [third] period,” Mosbeck said. “Then we got one, I think it was something like three minus left. The whole game was really close and I think almost all the games this weekend were really close for every team. There was a whole bunch that went to shootouts. It was a good competition for everyone.”

Mosbeck said it was an exciting extra perk for the home team to be allowed to use the Fort Frances High Muskies locker room.

Mosbeck added that it felt good to have hockey back and he thinks most people agree.

“I think the general consensus of everybody involved was that they were really excited to have a hockey tournament again, and to be able to play games and have that competition.”