Playoff fever heats up

Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen.
The regular season is now over in high school court sports and hockey, Muskie curlers similarly will look to advance out of NWOSSAA next month, and the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres are in the thick of a race with just two weeks left before the puck drops on the SIJHL playoffs.
It’s a good time to be a local sports fan.
The NorWOSSA playoffs here last Friday featured a marathon day of action in senior and junior basketball and volleyball—beginning at 10 a.m. with the junior girls’ semi-final win and lasting until the senior boys’ basketball team captured gold with a 56-46 win over Kenora shortly before 9 p.m.
The senior Muskies now will set their sights on a trip to OFSAA, but first will have to beat Thunder Bay’s representative (to be determined this week) in a best-of-three series on the road for the right to represent the region in Timmins.
The Fort High girls’ hockey team will look to rebound from a disappointing final stretch to the regular season when they host the Kenora Broncos this Friday in Game 1 of their best-of-three NorWOSSA semi-final while the boys also will host the Broncos beginning tomorrow (Thursday), albeit as heavy favourites in the first-place versus fourth-place semi-final match-up.
Suffice to say, it would be a monumental upset if the Muskie boys didn’t advance out of NorWOSSA, but the girls also have proven to be capable of that feat at varying times over the course of a long season. Besides a clean sweep of hockey would help avenge an Eagles’ sweep on the volleyball court here last Friday.
The SIJHL playoffs, meanwhile, are shaping up to be a schedule-maker’s dream, with a likely semi-final showdown between the Sabres and Thunder Bay Bearcats sure to take centre stage.
Of course, the Sabres have to hold onto third place in the standings with the Schreiber Diesels in hot pursuit—and will, of course, have to beat the last place Sioux Lookout Flyers in the opening round, but who wouldn’t put good money on that happening?
A final two-game series with the Diesels here March 5-6 may or may not have lasting implications.
That said, this Sabres/Bearcats match-up looks more and more appealing with each passing day, and especially after last Thursday night’s outcome, which saw the Sabres get the monkey off their backs and beat the Bearcats for the first time since Christmas.
A competitive series surely would pack the Ice for Kids Arena and further ignite junior hockey interest in this market.
Anything can happen in a short series, and the Sabres have found an extra gear over the last few weeks that needs to continue if they expect to compete for the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
Stay tuned!

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