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Plenty To Celebrate In Sports In 2021


It was a dismal start to the year in sports in 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting things down all across the province.

The Dauphin Kings did make some news early in the new year, signing head coach and general manager Doug Hedley to a two-year contract extention. With the 2019-20 season shut down, Hedley turned towards building for the future by signing five prospects - Hayden Lacquette, Jayden Jubenvill, Nolan Wickham, Andrew Andries and Keaton Ziprick.

In mid-February, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League officially cancelled its season and playoffs as did the Dauphin Minor Hockey Association. The Westman High School Hockey League quickly followed suit.

Dauphin Recreation Services did what it could to keep residents active, creating two sheets of curling ice in Vermillion Park and grooming cross-country ski trails around the DMCC grounds. And the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy walking track was opened on a limited basis, as well. Credit Union Place opened for bookings in early March, while the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre opened in mid-March.

The Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League finally pulled the plug on its season a month after other hockey leagues shut down.

Some local athletes made headlines with their accomplishments.

After winning three straight high school volleyball provincial titles, Paige Gaber of Gilbert Plains signed a letter of intent to play for the Assiniboine Community College (ACC) Cougars.

And Jackson Delaurier, was named to one of three men’s teams in Golf Manitoba’s junior development program. Delaurier went on to have a successful year, winning the Manitoba Bantam Golf Championship in June and a Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour event in Selkirk in July.

Rorketon curler Rae Kujanpaa penned a best-seller, The Everyman Curler, which ended up number one on Amazon’s best sellers list for sports biographies.

Gilbert Plains product Riese Gaber helped the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks make history, last season as they became the first team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s eight-year history to win the Penrose Cup as regular season champion and the league championship in the same year. Gaber had an impact in the championship game, scoring twice, including the game winner, and adding an assist and he was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Frozen Faceoff. He was also selected to the all-tournament all-star team.

Karlee Ushkowski signed to play university rugby with the fledgling University of Brandon Bobcats, a new program which started in 2018.

With the spring weather came golf season. Local courses opened for the season in early April, much to the delight of local golfers.

After eight years of plying his trade in North American hockey rinks, Colby Robak took his talents to Europe.

The Gilbert Plains product has played the last four seasons in Europe. He played one season in Finland and is currently in his third season with the Schwenninger Wild Wings in the German Elite League.

McCreary’s Remy Buchanan took her skills to the next level when she signed to play for the ACC Cougars women’s hockey team.

Two-sport athlete Emmalie Thompson of Ste. Rose committed to play for the ACC Cougars women’s soccer and hockey teams.

After ending his collegiate baseball career with the Valley City State University Vikings, Dauphin’s Will Hlady took his pitching talent to Brandon, where he suited up for the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks of the Expedition League. He finished 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in 20-1/3 innings with the Whiskey Jacks, which played out of Grand Forks, N.D., due to the pandemic.

Dauphin’s Ben Talbot was the recipient of the Alexander Josephson Memorial Scholarship, worth $2,000, by the Manitoba High School Athletic Association.

After an abbreviated campaign, Dauphin Minor Baseball Association cancelled its season in early June and Dauphin Minor Soccer Association soon followed suit.

The pandemic-shortened MJHL season proved costly for the Dauphin Kings as they reported a loss of $7,885.

The Gilbert Plains Country Club played host to the Canadian Friends of Hockey in Ukraine Celebrity Golf Tournament in late July, which featured former NHL stars such as Dennis Maruk, Dennis Polonich, Mike Krushelniski, Russ Romaniuk, Mike Ford and organizers Dave and Wayne Babych., as well as Roblin’s Jayce Hawryliuk.

Ryan Pulock of the New York Islanders was honoured with a sign declaring Grandview as the home of the NHL star.

The Dauphin Lake Gold Club celebrated its 100th anniversary in September with a bonfire, social and fireworks.

Taylor Armstrong and Riley Bertrand set new provincial records at the Manitoba Powerlifting Association’s Powerlifting and Bench Press Provincial Championships. Armstrong set new Manitoba records with a 75-kg (165-pounds) squat and a 110-kg (242.5-pounds) deadlift, while Bertrand set new marks in the deadlift with a lift of 290.5-kg (640-pounds) and a total weight of 700.5-kg (1,544-pounds) for all three disciplines.

The first-ever Dauphin Mixed Doubles Classic, presented by Nexus BioAg, hit the ice at the Parkland Recreation Complex curling rink, in October, with six teams competing for the $1,000 top prize, which was won by Mikaylah and William Lyburn.

After a year away from the gridiron, the Dauphin Clippers football team was back on the football field in the Rural Manitoba Football League. The Clippers finished the regular season with a 4-2 record and reached the championship game, where they lost to the Swan Valley Tigers, the only team to beat the Clippers all season.

Dauphin’s Tabi Eitmontas (nee Love) was inducted into the Manitoba Volleyball Hall of Fame after a stellar career at the collegiate and national team level.

A year after finishing as a runner-up, Dauphin’s Lane Prokopowich entered the winner’s circle as she helped Meghan Walter’s East St. Paul team win a provincial title at the junior women’s world qualifier.

The winning tradition continued in Gilbert Plains when it comes to high school volleyball as the Trojans’ JV girls squad captured the school’s fourth provincial title in the last five years. Gilbert Plains won the JV title in 2017 and the varsity crowns in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 provincials were cancelled because of the pandemic. The Trojans were not the only Parkland team to have success at provincials.

The Grandview Spartans girls brought home a silver medal after a loss to the Hamiota Huskies in the final, while the McCreary Mavericks boys team captured the bronze medal with a win over the Melita.

The Dauphin Kings and Parkland Rangers entered the Christmas break on a roll. At 23-7-0-0, the Kings lead the MJHL’s West Division by four points over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and they are just one point back of the Steinbach Pistons for the overall lead. One of the highlights of the first half was an eight-game winning streak. Dauphin is led by a stingy defence, which has allowed just 66 goals against in 30 games. The next fewest is Steinbach with 74 goals allowed. Dauphin is the only team in their division with less than 100 goals against.

The Rangers, meanwhile, enter the break with 10 wins in their last 12 games and they earned a point in one of the two losses. Parkland sits in fourth place in the league with a 16-9-2-1 record for 35 points, two ahead of the Winnipeg Thrashers and Southwest Cougars.

Doug Zywina