Thunder caps season with awards ceremony

Five weeks after their inaugural season ended, the Borderland Thunder got back together for one more night off the ice to hand out the awards and celebrate their first foray in the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
Matt Johnson and Rob Hrabec won the first Jim Witherspoon Memorial Trophy as co-MVPs. Witherspoon, the former owner of the Fort Frances Royals, the last junior hockey team to play here, passed away last September.
His son, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, was on hand to present the award with team president Shawn Jourdain and general manager Brent Tookenay.
“It was great to see junior hockey back in town this year,” said Mayor Witherspoon.
Johnson and Hrabec, a pair of Kenora ‘AAA’ products, bolstered the Thunder at both ends of the rink. Johnson was second in team scoring with 66 points (23 goals/23 assists) while playing in all 48 regular-season games.
Hrabec, acquired from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, went 16-2-4 in 24 regular-season games with a league-best 2.48 goals against average.
Meanwhile, Kevin Webb earned the award as the team’s top scorer. The former Muskie co-MVP racked up 46 goals and 30 assists—third best in the SIJHL.
Rounding out the award winners were Jay Philips (best defenceman), team captain Josh Baxter winning (most dedicated), and Troy Arnold (most popular).
The four departing players—Hrabec, Arnold, Boomer Redford, and Ryan Hilfer—each were presented with a framed replica of their playing jerseys.
The Thunder had an up-and-down season. After finishing atop the league with a 28-11-9 record in regular-season play, they went just 4-7 in 11 playoff games, including a sweep at the hands of the Dryden Ice Dogs in the SIJHL final.
But while head coach Wayne Strachan couldn’t help mention the disappointment in the playoffs, he said the team made great strides in its first year.
“I’d just like to thank all the guys in that locker room and the fans for making this the year that it was,” Strachan said as he addressed the crowd of just over 100 at the Red Dog Inn.
The SIJHL will hold its general meeting and year-end festivities May 24-25 in Thunder Bay.