By Craig Campbell, News Staff
Kenora opens the 2013 Allan Cup at J.L. Grightmire Arena against the Brantford Blast, and they prepared for that opening game by watching the Blast and Dundas Real McCoys in the recent Robertson Cup final.
“We are also familiar with both teams as we have played them both in the last couple of years,” said Kenora Thistles head coach Brian Olson. “Both teams have their core guys together so we are expecting very tough competition.”
In fact, last year Kenora beat Brantford to advance to the 2013 Allan Cup. One year earlier, the Thistles came to Dundas and beat the Real McCoys to advance to that year’s national championship. This is the fourth straight year Kenora has qualified for the Allan Cup, but a Kenora Thistles team hasn’t appeared in the final game since losing to Winnipeg in 1914.
“We have built this team with the expectation of bringing the Allan Cup back to Kenora. Unfortunately we have to play at least four tough games to make that happen,” Olson said. “We feel we are a little bigger, stronger and faster than years gone past.”
Kenora does not feature any former NHL players, but the head coach figures their strength at the Allan Cup should be their depth “from top to bottom.”
He pointed to four players who all played on the 2010 Central Hockey League’s Allen Americans. The Texas-based team is affiliated with the Dallas Stars and their AHL farm team. Thistles forwards Justin Bowers, Tobias Wheelan and Nathan O’Nabigon, along with defenceman Tyler Wooddisse, all played for the Allen Amercian team. Bowers was Allen American’s second leading scorer, with 23 goals and 50 assists for 73 points. Wooddisse, who contributed 33 points from the blueline, played provincial Junior A hockey with the Oakville Blades and Burlington Cougars.
After knocking off Dundas two games to none to advance to the 2012 Allan Cup, Kenora won all three round-robin games, then lost a quarter-final to Rosetown, Sask. In 2013, after topping Brantford Blast two game to none, the Thistles made it to a semi-final against powerhouse Bentley Generals of Alberta and lost 3–2 to the eventual Allan Cup winners.