The cream of the Superior Inter-national Junior Hockey League crop put in a strong showing at their inaugural all-star game here last night but in the end, it was too much Blizzard—too much of the time.
The OCN Blizzard, three-time defending champions of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, jumped ahead early and never looked back en route to a 9-3 win against the SIJHL all-stars at the Ice for Kids Arena.
The Blizzard took the wind out of the more than 1,200-plus on hand by scoring early in the game after deflecting a shot past starting goalie Rob Hrabec (Borderland Thunder).
After the SIJHL’ers couldn’t bury the puck on a two-man power play, the Blizzard broke out and scored a shorthanded marker with one man down from Aaron Star.
Ryan Braun closed out the period with a low point shot with four seconds on the clock.
In the second, Mike Kavanaugh (Dryden Ice Dogs) whipped a loose puck through a crowd to beat goalie Marc-Andre Leclerc to cut the gap to 3-1, igniting the crowd in the process.
But the Blizzard stormed back with two goals on goalie Ryan McGillis (Ice Dogs) in a 10-second span and eventually went to the locker room with a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Brian Dzijack and Albert Kavanaugh scored for the SIJHL in the third while Braun, Justin Williams, and Mike Ouellet replied for the Blizzard.
Kevin Webb (Borderland Thunder), though held off the scoresheet, was named the Molson SIJHL’s most valuable player.
Other Thunder players participating were defenceman Jay Philips and forwards Ian Lockman and Matt Johnson.
Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan, who led the SIJHL all-stars behind the bench, said his team—and their fledging league—had nothing to be embarrassed about.
“I don’t think we should look negatively on this game,” he remarked. “For the most part, we skated with this team and that’s a good team. We put some pressure on them and their goalie played well.
“I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of,” he added.
Blizzard head coach Glen Watson said his team has played together since August and that was the key in this game.
“We move the puck well and you can see the difference,” said Watson, whose team sports a 48-4 record so far this season. “We just do a lot of the little things that make us successful as a team.”
And Watson had nothing but praise for their opposition.
“It’s a new league. It’s a good opportunity for them to play us so they’ll see what they’re up against,” he noted. “They’re not that far off, that’s for sure.”
Hrabec, who played on the Blizzards’ 2000 championship team, was proud of his fellow all-stars.
“For being thrown together yesterday, we did pretty good,” he said. “We’re pretty satisfied with the results. It showed we can come out and compete with the best.”
The game capped off a whirlwind of activity in town. Before the game, a luncheon featuring guest speaker Ted Nolan, former coach of the Buffalo Sabres, was held at the Red Dog Inn.
Then an hour before the game, M&M Meat Shops here held a tailgate party just outside the Memo-rial Sports Centre.
Twelve scouts from U.S. colleges and the Ontario Hockey League also were in attendance for last night’s game.