Thunder Bay Kings crowned Bantam champs

Heading into their best-of-three branch playdowns here against the formidable Thunder Bay Sportop Kings, the Fort Frances ‘AAA’ Bantams knew they faced a tough task.
And even though they lost the series in two-straight, falling 7-1 Friday night and then 5-0 on Saturday, the Fort Bantams proved they could play with the big boys.
In fact, a few breaks in Saturday’s game, and a better showing on the power play (0-8), could have made the score much closer.
“We played really well today,” assistant coach Doug Novak said after Saturday’s contest. “Yesterday was the first time we had seen them. We played well for three periods [today].
“We had our share of scoring chances. The boys worked really hard,” he added.
The Fort crew definitely played well throughout Saturday’s game but the same could not be said for Friday’s opener, which saw Thunder Bay dominate the game right from the first period.
Gib Tucker, another of the team’s assistant coaches along with his brother, Bill, said they had worked on trying to hold up players in practice in order to prepare for the speed and tenacious forechecking of the Thunder Bay players.
“We worked on that a bit in practice, hooking and holding to slow them down in the neutral zone,” he added.
But the Fort had trouble doing that in the early going of Friday’s game as Mike Campagher, Nathan O’Nabigon, and Andy Koscieiniak all beat starter Dustin Tkachyk for a 3-0 lead.
Thunder Bay opened up a 5-0 spread after two on goals by Campagher and Denis Poulin, then rounded out their scoring with goals by Joel Poshtar and Mike Krelove.
Cole Hayward, assisted by Patrick Wensley and Kevin Webb, broke Kyle Rogers’ shutout bid with just 3:14 to play.
On Saturday, Tyler Canal opened the scoring midway through the first after Thunder Bay had peppered starter Ryan Ewonchuk with a barrage of shots for what seemed like an eternity.
Michael Commisso made it 2-0 with 2:58 left in the period, then scored his second of the night midway through the second to increase the lead to 3-zip.
Poshtar made it 4-0 just 58 seconds later when he converted a nice feed from Daniel Speer from behind the net.
O’Nabigon closed out the scoring with a goal early in the third.
But while the Fort looked outclassed in the first game, they seemed to get better each period–and even each shift–as they learned to contend with Thunder Bay’s speed up front and their quick transition from defence to offence.
“It was tough because they haven’t played together that much and that’s one of the reasons our power play struggled,” said Novak. “But I think they played really well.
“The boys would really come together with a few more games,” he noted.
Gib Tucker said you easily could tell Thunder Bay had played together all season, and won three ‘AAA’ tournaments, showing why they earned the trip to the provincial playdowns in Ottawa next month.
“Oh yeah, they are a strong team with no weak players who play together all year,” said Tucker, adding the Fort had seven first-year Bantams in their lineup.