© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Tommy Brown, left, and Chris Thompson hold the provincial Senior AAA championship trophy earlier this month as they helped the Shellbrook Elks get past the Rosetown Red Wings in four games. Brown and Thompson, along with Josh Peterson and Korey Diehl, are all from Prince Albert and they will be looking to get the Elks into the Allan Cup championship tournament when they face the South East Prairie Thunder this weekend in a five-game playoff for the Rathgaber Cup. All five games are being played in Steinbach, Man.
For a group of savvy veterans it is going to be like turning back the clock when the Shellbrook Elks load the bus tonight for their lengthy trip to Steinbach, Man., and the best-of-five Rathgaber Cup playoff.
Shellbrook, which captured the provincial Senior AAA title three weeks ago with a four-game victory over the Rosetown Red Wings, will play the South East Prairie Thunder for the right to move on to the Allan Cup championship in Dundas, Ont., next month.
“It’s been a while for a lot of the guys to pile on a bus,” laughed Chris Thompson, one of four Prince Albert players on the Shellbrook roster. “It’s exciting to have a road trip.”
The Elks have had some idle time since that thrilling victory over Rosetown, but they have had a few high-temp practises in the last week and Thompson says being this close to a spot in the national tournament is a lot of fun.
“I think our chances are good,” says Thompson. “That series against Rosetown was huge. Knowing we can get past Rosetown is a huge boost for us.”
“I think everyone is chomping at the bit,” added Thompson. “Our expectations are high and we want to get to the Allan Cup.”
The Elks, who were eliminated from the Fort Carlton Hockey League playoffs by Bruno shortly after their provincial win, expect to have most of their roster intact for the five-game set in Manitoba.
Other commitments play havoc on icing a team and that is one reason why a lengthy list of affiliate players is permitted for each team in the playoffs. Other players on the roster include: Brenden Cuthbert, David Reekie, Matt Shenher, Evan Folden, Hugh Hamilton, Will Rathje, Tyson Turgeon, Drew McDermott, Lyndon Leard, Floyd Cook, Steve DaSilva, Craig Valette, Brendan Turner, Curtis Olsen, Cory Rask, Derek Keller, Brett Robillard, Chris Durand, Patrick Cey, Dave McDougall, Cody Danberg, Jeremy Reich and Luke Fritshaw. Coaching the club is Leigh Spencer with Shaun Kerber assisting with the duties on the bench. Trainers are Myles Nagy and Brad Helm.
A trio of other Prince Albert players are also on the roster and they are Tommy Brown, Josh Peterson and Korey Diehl.
Thompson, who had a lengthy pro career after playing with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds, has seen the Prairie Thunder before as he was part of the Lloydminster squad at the 2012 Allan Cup tournament.
“I think it is six years in a row for them to win Manitoba,” says Thompson. “By the looks of it they have the same guys.”
One advantage the Elks will have is that they have been tested in the playoffs with already having victories over Lloydminster and then Rosetown. The Prairie Thunder never had to play a post-season game as their only competition folded midway through the season giving the Manitoba title to them by default.
Rosetown beat South East in the Rathgaber Cup playoff last year and the Elks are hoping to make it two years in a row for a Saskatchewan team to be the Western Region representative at the Allan Cup.
The series starts on Friday and will run for five consecutive nights if required. The Elks were going as far as Russell, Man., tonight and then right to Steinbach on Friday where they hope it is a short and sweet stopover.