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2013-12-30 at 9:00 AM

Sports stories of 2013

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
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Triumph and tragedy is the theme of this year’s top 10 Thunder Bay sports stories.

Fans had plenty to cheer about this season, from the annual (well, it seems that way) visit of the Stanley Cup to success stories in men’s university basketball and Premier Development League soccer.

The city’s premier hockey team got a new coach, while one of our top athletes suffered a frightening crash.

It wasn’t easy to narrow the list to 10, but here goes:

Coach Scott Morrison sculpted a masterpiece last March, taking the Lakehead Thunderwolves basketball team to the CIS national final, upsetting Cape Breton and Ottawa along the way. Though they didn’t capture the championship, running into a juggernaut Carleton Ravens team that routed them 92-42, the Wolves could hold their heads high.  Morrison made news later in the year when he decided to take a one-year sabbatical to serve as an assistant coach in Maine in the NBA D-League.

The Thunder Bay Chill and red cards go hand in hand. This time around it was goalkeeper Stephen Paterson who was tossed, leaving the Chill shorthanded for most of the Premier Development League championship game against the host Austin Aztecs. The Chill, who posted the league’s top record, fell 4-1 in the final, but thrilled fans all season long.

Paralympic tandem cyclist Robbi Weldon received the scare of her life in August. The Thunder Bay athlete, who won gold in 2012 at the London Paralympic Games, and her partner Emilie Roy were struck by a vehicle in Quebec while training for the world championships. Both athletes suffered multiple fractures and required hospital stays.

In any other year, Patrick Sharp bringing home the Stanley Cup in August might have been the top story of the year.  Sharp was a catalyst for the title-winning Chicago Blackhawks in the strike-shortened NHL season, helping them capture their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

The Lakehead Thunderwolves appointed local coaching legend Bill McDonald to take over the coaching reins. McDonald, who was working with the Central Hockey League champion Allen Americans, promised to bring discipline and a new attitude to the struggling team, which fell in the opening round of the playoffs for the second time in three seasons last spring.

Diver Molly Carlson brought home gold from the Junior Pan-American Games in Tuscon, Ariz. in September.  Carlson captured the title in the girls' Group B 3-metre category.

Several Thunder Bay runners escaped harm in April when a pair of homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At least 14 Northwestern Ontario runners entered the prestigious race.

Home-course advantage proved successful for both Lakehead’s men’s and women’s Nordic ski teams. The two squads captured top spot at the OUA championships held at Lappe in February, then to cap off another spectacular year, brought home gold at nationals.

Brothers Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal joined a strong Northwestern Ontario contingent in August at the Canadian Olympic hockey orientation camp in Calgary. Patrick Sharp, Kenora’s Mike Richards and Duncan Keith, who grew up in Fort Frances, were also among the invitees.

Wrestlers Ron Bingham and Marco Palermo captured gold at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. 
 


Honourable mentions:

  • The Churchill Trojans finished fourth in their division as the city hosted its first OFSAA varsity boys volleyball championship in November.
  • The city learned it would be the home of a PGA Tour Canada event at Whitewater Golf Course starting in 2014.
  • Krista McCarville ended her planned one-year hiatus to try her luck at the Olympic curling pre-trials. But after starting the week with two wins, she lost three straight to fall out of contention.
  • A pair of former SIJHLers experienced NHL firsts. Goalie Carter Hutton, who latter signed with Nashville, made his NHL debut for the Chicago Blackhawks, dropping a 3-1 decision to St. Louis. Former teammate Robert Bortuzzo scored his first NHL goal last season, beating none other than future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur on pass from Sidney Crosby.
  • Jared Staal, the youngest of four hockey-playing brothers, joined Eric and Jordan in Carolina for the final two games of the NHL season.
  • Jonathan Diaz became the second former Thunder Bay Border Cats player to make it to the major leagues, scoring a pair of runs for the Boston Red Sox in four at bats.
  • The annual Stokaluk shootout concluded what appears to be the final season at Municipal Golf Course. City council earlier in the year voted to close the course to save $100,000 a year.
  • The Thunder Bay International Baseball Association announced it had the go-ahead from Baseball Canada to submit the country’s bid to host the 2015 18U Baseball World Cup.
  • Lakehead’s women’s volleyball team returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, rallying in the second half of the OUA season to finish at .500.

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