March 22, 2019
By Vince Clark
On the weekend of March 16th and 17th, 2019, the 32nd annual Rob Thomas Memorial Hockey Tournament took place. The tournament memorializes Rob Thomas, a local police officer who was killed in the line of duty after a routine traffic stop turned violent back in 1986.
This years tournament featured 8 teams, the Pine Falls Ol’Kings, the St-Georges Voyageurs, Skyline, who are primarily from Winnipeg, the Bannock Boys who hail from Sagkeeng, the Binmuckers who largely hail from the beaches, the Other Guys a team mostly comprised of former Pine Falls residents who play together in Winnipeg, the Lumberjacks, and the St-Georges Saugers, a team spearheaded by former locals Colin and Kyle Cyr.
Coming into the tournament, the Binmuckers were heavy favourites, having not lost a game in nearly two calendar years. They lived up to the hype, smashing their way through their first two games of the round robin, before being shocked by the Voyaguers in a wild 11-8 game. The St-Georges Saugers ran away with the other division, crushing their opponents by a combined 28-11 enroute to a sterling 3-0 record. The Bannock Boys and Lumberjacks both went 0-3 and missed out on the playoffs.
The Binmuckers beat the Ol’Kings 7-3 to set up a rematch with the Voyuageurs. The Other Guys narrowly beat Skyline 4-3 to set up a match with the Saugers in the other semi-final. The rematch between the Binmuckers and Voyageurs ended up being one for the ages. The teams glided across the ice at breakneck speed, trading scoring chances throughout. The game went to overtime at 5-5. The Binmuckers avenged their stunning round robin loss by eliminating the Voyageurs in the sudden death 3 on 3 period. The second semi-final was equally entertaining, with the Saugers narrowly beating the Other Guys, 3-2, largely on the back of netminder Jon McMullen, who made several acrobatic saves to preserve the lead.
This all led up to a dream final between the Binmuckers and the Saugers. The first period of the game was played at a pace beyond anything one would expect at a rec hockey tournament. Both teams were loaded with former MMJHL players, and it showed. Both goalies played extremely well, as the two high powered teams traded brilliant chances throughout the first period, and the score was 2-0 Saugers at the break. The Binmuckers were drained from their overtime game against the Voyageurs as well as having played the additional quarterfinal game in the morning however, and they faded sharply in the second period. The Saugers scored dazzling goal after dazzling goal as the Binmuckers could no longer keep pace. Saugers goaltender Jon McMullen nearly pitched a shutout, before the Binmuckers finally scored a couple late goals. It was a case of too little too late, as the Saugers cruised to an 11-3 victory.
A big thank you goes out to Dane Zarazun for taking on organizing the tournament at the last minute, and a huge shoutout to the hardworking Arena volunteers who ran the canteen tirelessly all weekend as well as the Silent Auction.