First half of 2018 full of interesting sports stories

The first half of 2018 was full of the kind of sports news that would have people talking all year. From the SaskTel Tankard at Affinity Place, to the Power Dodge Estevan Bruins’ playoff run to the bus crash that put an abrupt, but ultimately brief, halt to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season, there was no shortage of major events between New Year’s Day and Canada Day in the sporting world.

January

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The TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course named Amanda Minchin their new general manager for the 2018 season. “Amanda has been the face of the club to many members for years and her knowledge of the membership, as well as her involvement with the junior programs, illustrates her ability to ensure a great experience for all members and guests of our club,” wrote club president Jeff Ward in an email to club members early in the month. “I’ve been here a long time. There’s been other offers and other things but obviously I’m in love with our club and our organization and our golf course,” Minchin said in an interview. “I just think we have so much we can still accomplish. We’ve accomplished a lot since I’ve been a kid.”

Estevan’s Kristy Johnson was a part of the Candace Chisholm rink at the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Melfort, but they weren’t able to accumulate enough wins to get to the playoff round. They lost 8-7 to Stefanie Lawton in a game that would have sent to them to the playoff round.

The Estevan Comprehensive School Elecs senior boys basketball team defeated Weyburn 92-81 in a home tournament game that was a bit of a preview for next month’s McLeod Series. Jack McGeough scored 39 in the game and John Andres added 28. The Elecs lost a couple of tough games in their tournament’s next day to Moose Jaw Vanier and Swift Current. 

The death of bantam AA TS&M Bruins assistant coach Mike Sarada on a highway north of the city shocked the hockey community across the province. “It’s the loss of a good man, a member of our family and a member of our team,” said Bruins head coach Tom Copeland after the next week’s loss against the visiting Yorkton Terriers. 

Plans were made to honour Sarada with a weekend later in the season. “You do what you can to honour the man and remember the man,” Copeland said. “He was important to the kids and important to me, and important to Jeff (Clauson, assistant coach). We’ll miss him.”

Estevan’s Cole Fonstad scored a goal in the Sherwin Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Guelph, Ont., for Team Bobby Orr. He scored 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points in 49 games for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League.

 

February

 

Steve Laycock defeated Colton Flasch for the 2018 SaskTel Tankard title at Affinity Place with a 9-7 win. With Matt Dunstone throwing last stones, Laycock only lost twice during the week, an 8-7 game to Brady Kendal during the week and a B final 8-7 loss to Brock Virtue. “It was a really weird week,” Laycock said. “We played amazing at times and we had a couple of blips where we just kind of ran into some hot skips. (Brady) Kendel played really good and Brock Virtue had a great game. Today (during the final), we were up and down.”

Importantly, the final punched their ticket to the Tim Hortons Brier, taking place in Regina in March. “You can just see other Briers when the home team makes a shot and the whole place just goes wild,” Laycock said. “Obviously the last year with (Brad) Gushue, I think they propelled him right to the win, that crowd. Hopefully we’ll have a similar type of week.”

The week was a successful one for organizers, who were able to show off the city and Affinity Place as a potential host for big curling events. “What just happened blew our expectations out of the water completely,” said event co-chair Helen Fornwald. “Our goal, our journey along the way. The community came out and supported it. The patch, the young kids supported that. Our 50-50s were well-attended and we had a great finish here. We welcome the Laycock team to represent our province.”

Estevan’s Brent Gedak had a good chance to experience the Tankard as skip of the lone hometown rink. “We played well, we played strong as a team together,” said Gedak after the 9-7 loss Saturday to Scott Bitz that ended their Tankard run. “Unforuntately we just lost a few games.”

The Elecs senior girls and boys basketball teams lost the McLeod Series to the Weyburn Eagles. The Elecs had a one-point lead going into the series’ two games in Weyburn but the Eagles came through with wins of their own.  It was the Eagles’ first win in four years, and the Eagles have a 44-39 overall series lead.

The Melville Millionaires defeated the peewee AA Westmoreland Bruins in the first round of the league playoffs with a 7-6 win at Melville. Captain Carson Birnie scored two goals and six assists for the Bruins in their 11-9 victory in Game 2 Saturday at the Power Dodge Ice Centre. “We just wanted to beat these guys. We had a tough game last week and we just wanted to be a family for a couple more games,” Birnie said after the win. 

Estevan’s Monique Ley had 21 straight strikes in 10-pin bowling at the Wednesday night league at Estevan Bowl, setting a lane record. She had a three-game total of 248-300-279 for 827 pins, which was a personal record by three for the internationally-competitive Team Canada bowler.

The hockey community came out to honour the memory of TS&M Bruins assistant coach Mike Sarada, with players from his old teams coming out for a friendly pair of games and the city’s midget AA and bantam AA Bruins playing games that night. Bruins head coach Tom Copeland thanked in particular Donna Fonstad, Tracey Tuchscherer, Chris McMillen and Bonnie Strutt.

“Kudos to the four ladies who did most of the legwork and had a lot of volunteers, so it was really good. I think everything right through the memorial game, I think the midgets had a good game and we had a good game tonight too.”

“He had a huge impact on me and he was a great coach,” said Carson Benning, a member of the midget AA Apex Bruins. “I liked him a lot. We all wanted to play this game.“

 

March

The Elecs senior girls basketball team won bronze over Weyburn at the Victor Elias Memorial Shoot For A Cure tournament and while they played well during the week, they were able to raise money for cancer awareness and also raise community awareness. “What I’m trying to do is teach my girls to pay it forward and every year they come away with not surprising me but really making me proud,” said Elecs head coach Jessie Smoliak.  The event was made meaningful with a tribute to cancer survivor Stacy Dutka, mother of senior guard Tatiana Dutka and team mamager for four years. “Stacy is, like I said, my inspiration,” Smoliak said. “She’s my hero because she, not only does things for the team, but she does things for others. She’s just an incredible person and a role model and I’m glad that I have her friendship and that she’s been a part of the team for the last four years. She’s been on this team for four years because of having her daughter on the team but she never once talked about having cancer or dealing with it.”

The Elecs weren’t done impressing. They won silver at Hoopla after an exciting 4A gold medal game against the Melfort Comets in Prince Albert. Although Melfort won 60-56, the Elecs got a great weekend from seniors Dutka, Sammy Wade, Morgan Fichter and Khrystal Montebon.  “I couldn’t have asked for more from my team for their determination or their heart,” said Smoliak. “They played to win and had nothing to lose, and that was the thing going into the game. We wanted to make some upsets, too.”

The Power Dodge Estevan Bruins won their 34th game of the SJHL regular season to conclude the campaign and found out their first round playoff opponent: the Kindersley Klippers. “They’re the heaviest team in the league,” said Bruins head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood of the Klippers. “They’re big, strong, gritty and they play really hard. They have a decent skating team for how big they are and they have a skill set to complement (them). They’re sort of a utility team. They’ve got a little bit to offer in each category and they’ve got one of the best goaltenders in the league.” 

The Bruins would end up sweeping the Klippers in four games thanks in part to some stellar play from goaltender Bo Didur to set up a second round match with the Battlefords North Stars – a team that had knocked them out of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

Former Bruins captain Tanner Froese led St. Norbert to an NCAA Div. III title. The Green Knights defeated Salve Regina University 3-2 in double overtime in the national title game at Lake Placid. “It feels great and it’s why I came to St. Norbert,” said Froese. “They have a great track record of winning championships and it was just a matter of time. I’m surprised it took me this long the way this program is run.”

The victory capped Froese's four-year collegiate career with the Green Knights, and an outstanding senior season.

The Redvers Rockets won the Big Six title for the first time in their history.

“Everything fell into place for players, and that was the biggest reason,” said co-general manager Dallas Jonassen. “It was a great atmosphere (at home), especially for winning the Lincoln Trophy for the first time in 59 years.”

April

The Power Dodge Estevan Bruins won their Canalta Cup semifinal series over the Battlefords North Stars with a 6-2 win in the Battlefords. Bo Didur was hurt for the final game of the series but the Bruins scored six in a row after going down 2-0 early to the Stars.

The jubilation was short lived, however, as news came about the bus crash that involved the Humboldt Broncos, playing against the Nipawin Hawks in the other semifinal. Former Bruins assistant coach Darcy Haugan was the Broncos head coach and former Bruins player Mark Cross was one of the Broncos’ assistant coaches. Both were among the 16 who died as a result of the April 8 crash.

Bruins head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood said the crash is beyond any nightmare or anything he’s ever imagined.

“There’s too many young people affected and families affected,” he said. “It’s just such a tragedy and obviously we’re thinking of those who have been affected directly and who have lost somebody or have been severely injured.”

Some of the players on the Bruins had connections with the Broncos players killed in the crash.

“There’s a lot of personal loss in our dressing room with friends and former teammates,” Lewgood said.

Haugan and Lewgood once assisted with camps for the Weyburn Red Wings together. And they both spent years working in Junior B before getting a shot at a higher level of hockey.

The Strippers’ annual Spring Bust Tournament was anything but a bust despite news of the Broncos bus crash dampening the mood. With the close of the Civic Auditorium, the tournament had games in Bienfait for the first time and those went well, according to organizer Rick Rohatyn. The 40 games went on as scheduled in the 36th annual tournament, and tournament winners were crowned but there was a difference this year with many teams getting together at centre ice before their games in a show of solidarity with the community of Humboldt and their hockey team. Many players wore ‘H’ or ‘HB’ on their helmets in yellow tape, one of the primary colours of the Humboldt Broncos.

The Bruins and Hawks resumed the Canalta Cup playoffs under the glare of a national media spotlight with a pair of games in Nipawin. On a sign just north of Tisdale on the way up to Nipawin, some children used bright yellow posterboard to draw a black spoked B, with the message on the sign: “Please Drive Safe, Bruins”.

If you didn't realize you were within moments of driving to the site where the Humboldt Broncos bus crashed, that would undoubtedly have brought it home.

A sombre visit to the crash site by the Bruins had players, coaches and team staff in tears, inside and outside of prayer circles, in advance of their Canalta Cup final Games 1 and 2 against the Nipawin Hawks.

The team gave gifts and greetings to some members of the Nipawin Fire Department, representing the first responders to the crash, before going to the memorial itself just off the highway.

The Bruins split the first two games – and ultimately the first six games before falling just a bit short in Game 7 in Nipawin. Jake Fletcher scored the Bruins’ lone tally in the game, his league-leading 11th of the playoffs. Bruisn goaltender Bo Didur made 32 of 34 saves in the game, while the Bruins poured 27 shots on Declan Hobbs.

The Estevan Mermaids Synchronized Swimming Club held their annual water show at the RM of Estevan Aquatic Centre pool.

“It was really incredible to see how much they’ve improved over the year, especially the youngest kids,” longtime coach Brenda Lyons said. “They can barely swim when they come to us. Over the season, you just see the confidence develop and their love of the sport develop. We’ve got some very gifted athletes, so there’s going to be good stuff to come.”

The Southeast Performance Pump Twins midget AAA baseball team selected their team as a late spring melt hampered some of their chances at getting outside for practices too early.

Back from last year’s team were Thomas Husband, Alex Kerr, Tyren Dorrance, Burke Lyons, Jose Reyes and Dahlen Klassen.  The new players were Aiden Krafchuk, Rhett Krafchuk, Hudson Neuberger, Ty Nikolejsin, Jayke Smolinski and Boston Walker.

The spring melt caused a little bit of an issue when it came to getting practice time outdoors but the Twins still hit the outside to get ready for the season with a pair of practices.

Curling Canada announced that Affinity Place was chosen to host the Home Hardware Canada Cup in December. Some of the country’s best curlers were going to come here for cash and points earned towards the Canadian pre-Olympic trials.

“It all started with holding the Tankard and wanting to see if we could hold that event and wanting to see if we had a fan base that could come out for it, and see with Curl Sask if we could meet our goals for them,” said host committee co-chair Helen Fornwald. “Our dream came true.”

 

May

 

Brendon Labatte won the first street stock car race of the season at the Estevan Motor Speedway.  “This is a new car to me so it’s been a big learning curve,” said LaBatte, also a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ offensive line. “We took it down to Texas and Nebraska earlier in the winter. (May 5) is the best it’s worked by far. Good competition up here. The guys race you clean and there’s no hitting here. It’s a great class to be in because it’s got great racers in it.”

LaBatte was overtaken a couple of times, one by his sister, Lindsay Wagner, and the other time by Cody Nelson before LaBatte took the lead for good with five laps to go.

Some southeast teams did very well at the 17U Women, 18U Women and 17U Men’s volleyball provincials.

The Estevan Southeast Giants Orange team placed seventh in the 18U Men’s Division I Tier I, but the Estevan Southeast Giants’ Black team won the Division I Tier II division. 

Several Estevan Sharks water polo players went to California for the Sailor Cup as part of Team Saskatchewan May 18-20. “It’s kind of cool that we got invited to play,” said Josie Andrist. “There’s a lot of girls from Regina that are on the team,” she added.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everything there and playing,” said Dierks Milford.

The girls team went undefeated in the round robin. With strong goaltending by Josie Andrist and goals from Alex Andrist and Mikayla Hack, they helped their team beat the Palms Verdes team 9-1, the Thunder Team 9-8 and the Huntington Beach team 10-3.  This put them in the gold medal game against SoCal Gold. The girls fought hard but ended with a score of 7-2 taking home the silver medal in the gold division.  Josie Andrist received a trophy for Most Valuable Goalie. 

Saturday morning, the boys team played four games in the morning at San Clemente.

They won their second against the Pride 7-4, and finished ninth overall with a record of 3-3.

Estevan’s Jayden Dudas won the juvenile division of the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour’s event at TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course with a 76-68-144 over two days May 19-20. That was enough to beat the Nagy twins from Saskatoon, Cole (74-71-145) and Josh (76-70-146). “I just didn’t make as many bogeys (May 20),” Dudas said. “I made more birdies and made more putts. I just had a different mindset. I was just playing golf, just rolling.” In the juvenile boys division among the Estevan golfers, Chase Gedak was seventh (81-76-157) and Jace Carlisle was eighth (81-77-158). In the junior boys division, Logan Chernoff was fourth (80-81-161). Bailey Farr was sixth in the U15 girls division (108-113-221). Ryan Chernoff finished in 13th place in the peewee boys division (87-88-175).

Estevan hosted the Dominion 8-ball championship at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #60. “We had excellent players, good pool, good sportsmanship, good camaraderie,” said legion member Jim (Frosty) Forrest. “It ran smoothly. We had no delays in the tournament at all. It ran like it was supposed to.”

While Saskatchewan didn’t win the event, the local players had a good time at the tournament and it was organizationally run well.

“I think we've proved to legion command that we're capable and we are a can-do branch and we can host anything and make it a success,” Forrest said.

 

June

The Power Dodge Estevan Bruins drafted Turner McMillen in the first round, 10th overall in the SJHL Bantam Draft. McMillen was a member of the TS&M bantam AA Bruins, playing a pair of games for the Apex midget AA Bruins as an affiliate player as well. McMillen’s bantam teammate Zane Winter of Carlyle was chosen by the Weyburn Red Wings in the third round of the draft.

Taeghen Hack, who also played for the 16U team at westerns, was a big part of Saskatchewan’s U19 team win at nationals in a single elimination team event in Montreal.

The gold medal game was a rematch between team Saskatchewan and the Pacific Storm, the teams that battled in the final at Westerns. Though the game was close through most of it, Team Saskatchewan won this battle also with a 13-7 final score.

Five Estevan members of the Vilcu’s Karate Club went to nationals and grabbed some gold medals in forms, sparring and weapons.  “We came home with 16 medals,” said club member Pam Gunnlaugson. “We trained in Weyburn and Estevan and it’s the support of the club and all the black belts that gets you ready for something like that.”

The 2018 Boundary Bass Classic at Boundary Dam had 26 entrants, with local teams and other teams from Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta. “The city has identified the dam and the reservoir and the largemouth bass here as a unique tourist activity,” organizer James Turner said. The event was won by Russell, Man.’s Matthew Terleski and Brandon, Man.’s Derek Robins who had a big fish of 3.98 pounds and a total weight of 14.64 pounds for their top four fish.

Former Bruins coach Darcy Haugan was posthumously awarded the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award at the National Hockey League’s awards night in Las Vegas. Haugan was the head coach and general manager of the SJHL's Humboldt Broncos when he died in an April 6 crash involving the Broncos team bus and a semi-trailer unit. Sixteen people aboard the bus died. His wife, Christina, accepted the award on his behalf.

Estevan’s Cole Fonstad was selected in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL entry draft. Fonstad had a great year on the ice for the Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 21 goals and 52 assists for 73 points in 72 games in the regular season. He added four goals and an assist in the Raiders’ playoff run and played in five games for Canada at the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament in Russia in the spring.

Fonstad became the first Estevan-born player to be drafted in 17 years.

Winged sprint car driver Kyle Fedyk took second place in the only race of the year at Estevan Motor Speedway. Fedyk is a regular on the World of Outlaws tour and the threat of rain scared off a fair chunk of those drivers for the weekend, which was scheduled to have two races. However, one of the evenings was rained out. 

“You always look forward every year, or for the last three years, getting to come home in front of friends and family to race,” Fedyk said. “I’m used to racing hours away from home, two, three, five hours away. This track is a perfect sprint car track. The height of the banking and the size is an amazing sprint car track.”

The bantam lacrosse Voltz won the South Saskatchewan Lacrosse League championship with a 10-0-2 regular season and a win in the playoffs with a 7-2 victory over the Swift Current Rampage Blue. In the final, Kaden Chrest scored three and Nathan Wagstaff scored a pair, while Kalen Stang and Kolby Forseth scored a single. Eight different players scored assists in the gold medal game. The Voltz will now get ready to play in provincials, hosted in Estevan July 6-8. 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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