Thunder to host Dudley Cup

As host team, the Borderland Thunder will have an automatic berth in the Dudley Hewitt Cup next season.
The four-team, round-robin also will feature the champions of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, Northern Junior Hockey Association, and Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League vying for the provincial Junior ‘A’ crown.
Should the Thunder win the SIJHL title, they’ll go to the Dudley Hewitt Cup along with the league runner-up.
The winner will represent the central region at the 2003 Royal Bank Cup (national junior championship) in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
In related news, the Thunder were awarded the SIJHL’s 2002-03 pre-season tournament Sept. 13-15 at the league’s year-end meeting last Saturday in Thunder Bay.
The Thunder also led the way at the SIJHL inaugural awards luncheon, claiming or sharing four of the 10 trophies.
Heading the list was Wayne Strachan as coach-of-the-year, who led his team to first place with a 28-11-9 regular-season record—his first as a junior head coach.
“From learning how to run practice to handling 25 different individuals, it was all new to me,” said the 29-year-old former Muskie, whose previous coaching experience was with the local Tagg’s Bantam ‘AA’ squad the previous season.
“It was things I had ideas about but wasn’t sure until I actually tried them,” he added.
Strachan was quick to credit his coaching staff of Shane Bliss, Sean Taggart, and Neil Cooper. “They helped me out and made the job easier,” he stressed.
Other Thunder winners included Rob Hrabec (top goalie), Kevin Webb (top rookie), and Josh Baxter (best defensive forward co-winner with Tom Grant of the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs).
Charly Washipabano (Nipigon Hawks) was the only double-winner, capturing the league’s most valuable player and most gentlemanly player.
Washipabano also was the first SIJHL player to sign with a college team. He’ll skate with St. Anselm, a Division III school in New Hampshire, next season.
Other award winners included Trevor Karasiewicz of the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs (top scorer), Steve Atkins of the Nipigon Hawks (most improved), and Tony Sikich of Northwest Wisconsin Knights (combining ability and academic achievement).
Jarris Blacksmith (Hawks) and Mike Kavanaugh (Dryden Ice Dogs) were co-winners of the top defenceman award.
In other news, the SIJHL announced its membership into the Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League. The nine-member governing body had voted to accept the league during the Royal Bank Cup earlier this month.
The SIJHL also will only sport six teams next season—all five full-time Canadian clubs and the Northwest Wisconsin Knights of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League on a part-time basis.
The Iron Range Yellow Jackets will not return, and talk of expansion to the north shore of Superior and Minnesota fell through for this year.
Also, overtime will be added to the league’s regular-season games for the 2002-03 season. In the event of a tie after regulation, teams will play four skaters aside in a five-minute sudden death period.
Each team will earn one point for playing the overtime session and an extra one for scoring.
In the meantime, Strachan said their work towards improving next season begins this summer. An invite-only rookie camp will be held in late July before the main camp in August.
“There’s junior players we’re looking at that maybe we’ll try and trade for. To bring in to make our team better,” said Strachan.

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