THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Rounding out the four-team field at the TELUS Cup West Regional, presented by Windsor Plywood, that goes Thursday through Sunday at Fort William First Nation Arena is the Kenora Thistles.
Kenora will serve as the second Hockey Northwestern Ontario side joining the HNO champion and host Thunder Bay Kings along with the title holders of the Manitoba Midget Hockey League, the Winnipeg Wild, and the Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League, the Notre Dame Hounds.
Awaiting the winner of the West Regional is a berth to the TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget Championship, April 23-29, in Sudbury, Ont.
Here’s a preview of the Kenora Thistles:
THE SEASON: As the lone Ontario-based club in the 13-team Manitoba Midget Hockey League, Kenora finished in 10th spot overall during the 2017-18 regular season with an 18-26-0-4 record.
One of those triumphs came over the eventual MMHL champion Winnipeg Wild by a 5-4 count at home back on December 2.
With their 10th place finish, the squad did not qualify for the MMHL playoffs.
In the HNO Districts, the Thistles fell in three games to Thunder Bay after dropping scores of 7-3 and 2-1 on the road and 3-2 in overtime back in Kenora.
POINT PRODUCERS: Leading the club in regular season offensive numbers was forward Dylan Winsor.
He was over a point-per-game player with 50 in 48 outings, including 20 tallies.
Five of those markers were game-winners.
Cooper Witherspoon was next with 46 that featured a team-best 28 goals.
Sam Brunton finished third in scoring with 42 points while Sean Gula and Sulivan Shortreed supplied 35 each.
Witherspoon led his club offensively in the districts with three points in as many outings, including two tallies.
Aidan Shumka, Jacob Frankcom and Shortreed has two points apiece.
GOALKEEPERS: Cooper Hatfield saw nearly 1,600 minutes of game action for Kenora during the course of the regular season.
In all he had a respectable 14-11-0-2 record with 2.66 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
Hatfield’s efforts saw him finish fourth overall among all MMHL netminders in GAA and his save mark had him sit second in the league.
Matthew Booth meanwhile played over 1,300 minutes and he picked up four victories along the way.
The duo posted two shutouts apiece in 2017-18.
Hatfield and Booth both saw time between the pipes in the districts defeat against Thunder Bay.
THISTLE THOUGHTS: Kenora is going in search of their first West Regional title. … Coaching the Thistles is their long-time club bench boss Doug Novak. … His assistant coaches are Bill Brunton and Kyle Chagnon. … Nine different players on the squad had 20 or more points in the MMHL this season. … Goaltender Cooper Hatfield was named MMHL player of the week for the time frame from January 8-14 after registering a 0.50 goals-against average and an equally stingy .985 save percentage in a pair of impressive victories. … Notable Thistles alumni include former NHLer Mike Richards. … Richards went on star in the Ontario Hockey League helping the Kitchener Rangers capture a Memorial Cup. … He also won two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings and helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. … The Thistles have won the HNO AAA midget Branch Championship four times in competition vs. the Kings claiming crowns in 2001, 2012, 2013 and 2016.
Awaiting the 2018 West Regional winner will be a berth to the TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget event, April 23-29, in Sudbury, Ont.