Tkachuk wins Boxing Day squash crown

Bob Tkachuk capped off a perfect day on the court here Saturday by beating James Knofe of Winnipeg 3-1 in the best-of-five ‘A’ final during the annual Boxing Day men’s squash tournament.
It was the second year in a row Tkachuk has won the tourney title while going undefeated. In fact, he’s now won the ‘A’-side three of the last four years.
He reached the final with victories over John Hazel (3-0), Al Christiansen (3-0), and Ben Andrusco (3-1).
Tkachuk said his victory over Knofe was a tough, gruelling match between two players who have played head-to-head in similar tournaments over the years.
“It was a long match. I’ve lost to him before and I’ve beaten him before so it’s kind of a rivalry between us,” said Tkachuk, who also helped organize the tournament.
“[James] doesn’t give you much opportunity so you have to make him move around a lot because he’s such a fluid player,” he added.
Tkachuk also noted Andrusco, whom he beat to reach the final, was one of the more talented local players in the tournament–and expects the young squasher to be one of the top players here in the near future.
“Benji shows a lot of promise and he’ll be going to the Manitoba Open [Jan. 29-31 in Winnipeg] along with another good, young player in Jason Kabel,” he said.
Andrusco won the ‘B’ title at the tournament here last year while Kabel captured it this year with a 3-2 win over Michael Whitehead in the final.
Kabel opened with losses to Al Holt (3-0) and Greg Allan (3-2) but then nipped Bill Naturkach 3-2. He advanced to the final after Allan was forced to “retire” from further contention.
Tkachuk said he was pleased with the 16-player field for this year’s tournament and hopes the sport continues to grow here through their efforts to build up a junior program.
“We had a competitive field on both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides,” he noted. “We created it so a ‘B’ player would play an ‘A’ player.”
In other squash news, a high school tournament goes here today [it began at 10 a.m.] at the Sportsplex. Then a couple of local junior players will be heading to Winnipeg on Jan. 22-24 for the Manitoba Jr. Open.
Andrusco, who is organizing the high school event, said seven players had signed up for it by Monday (nine players are registered to play after schools every Tuesday and Thursday).
Steven Krag, 12, and Drew Allan, 13, are a pair of local players Tkachuk expects will gain valuable experience at the “very competitive” junior showdown in Winnipeg.
“It will be the first time we take juniors there so it should be a good measuring stick to see where our guys are and it will give them a chance to get their feet wet,” said Tkachuk.
“We want to establish a strong junior program and we’re hoping to create future squash players in Fort Frances,” he added.