Organizers of the annual Taggs Bantam ‘AA’ hockey tournament, which gets underway here tomorrow morning at the Memorial Sports Centre, expect another solid weekend of competition.
“We’ll have some exhibition games [here this season] but this is probably the best opportunity to showcase this team in front of our hometown,” co-coach Dave Egan said.
The tournament will welcome nine out-of-town teams, including five from Thunder Bay (North and South End, Beavers, Neebing, and Maroons), and one each from Dryden, Red Lake, Bemidji, and Baudette.
Teams will play a two-pool, round-robin system, with the top four teams from each pool qualifying for the playoffs.
Taggs lost out in the semi-finals to the Norwest Stars (Thunder Bay) at this tourney last year.
Six players have returned to Taggs’ 20-player roster this season, including goalie Jason Green, defenceman Bryan Chambers, and forwards Jamie Davis, Tanner Kaemingh, Mike Niskala, and Scott Bridgeman.
The team sports a 3-2 exhibition record and is coming off a top-four finish at last weekend’s Pizza Hut Invitational in Thunder Bay, losing a narrow 4-3 decision to the North End Rangers (Thunder Bay) in the semi-finals to finish with a 2-2-1 record.
The South End Rangers went on to beat North End in the finals.
But Egan said the Thunder Bay Beavers look to be one of the region’s top ‘AA’ Bantam squads this season.
Still, he and co-coach Pat Dittaro have been pleased with his team’s improvement over the past two months—something Egan hopes will carry over into the weekend.
“Our team seemed to get stronger after each game [in Thunder Bay],” he noted. “The kids have a good feeling about this tournament. They want to carry on the same level of play.
“We play very well in the opposition’s end. This week, we’ve concentrated on play on our end,” he added. “Anything can happen at a tournament like this.”
Off the ice, a penny table auction will be held throughout the weekend. Among the prizes is a Borderland Thunder jersey signed by the entire team.
Various 50/50 draws and puck “chucks” will be held, with proceeds going to the team.
“This year’s games should be good. Hopefully the fans will come out,” noted team trainer and tourney co-organizer, Dale Kaemingh.
“From a spectator’s point of view, these teams bring hard skating and just a good overall brand of hockey,” agreed Egan.
Round-robin action gets underway tomorrow when Taggs meets Neebing at 10:30 a.m. at the “Ice for Kids” Arena.
Opening ceremonies will be held Friday at 5 p.m. just before Taggs’ second game against Bemidji, also at the “Ice for Kids” surface.
Tickets cost $5 per day, or $10 for a weekend pass.