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TBAYtel Varsity Cup preview

TBAYtel Varsity Cup hosts

Dec. 21, 2005

From the Lakehead Sports Information Department
The Lakehead Thunderwolves are proud to present the fourth annual TBAYtel Varsity Cup tournament this Dec. 28-31 at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay. This year's edition of the tournament sees Lakehead welcome back two teams that have been in the tourney previously; the St. Francis Xavier X-Men of the AUS conference and the Calgary Dinos of the Canada West conference. As well, Lakehead is very happy to welcome the NCAA Division I No. 18 Lake Superior State Lakers of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The Lakers will be taking part in the Varsity Cup for the first time and are the first NCAA Division I team to join the tourney.

In the first Varsity Cup; the host Thunderwolves came out the victors. But, since then, the UNB Varsity Reds claimed the Varsity Cup two consecutive years. This year will pit four very strong teams against each other in the traditional three-day round robin tournament format from Dec. 28-30, followed by the championship game on Dec. 31. None of the four teams have played each other this season.

TBAYtel Varsity Cup Tournament Schedule:
Dec. 28: Calgary vs. St. Francis Xavier, 4:00 PM
Dec. 28: Lake Superior State vs Lakehead, 7:30 PM
Dec. 29: Lake Superior State vs. Calgary, 4:00 PM
Dec. 29: St. Francis Xavier vs. Lakehead, 7:30 PM
Dec. 30: Lake Superior State vs. St. Francis Xavier, 4:00 PM
Dec. 30: Lakehead vs. Calgary Varsity Cup, 7:30 PM
Dec. 31: Final (Teams TBD), 2:00 PM

This year all seven games of the tournament will be video webcast live as Lakehead is partnering with of Fredericton, New Brunswick to bring the exciting tournament action to hockey fans in Canada and the USA. The games will be webcast on a pay-per-view basis at CDN $7.95 per game or $26.95 for a Deluxe Seven Game Tourney Pass. To order; go to

Lakehead Thunderwolves:
The host Thunderwolves are looking forward to regaining the Varsity Cup. Last season, they came close but lost to UNB in the tourney final. This year's edition of the Thunderwolves is very quick and talented and backed by strong goaltending. Lakehead is third in the tough OUA Far West Division with an 8-4-2 conference record (xx overall) behind Top 10 ranked Western and Waterloo and the Thunderwolves have the sixth best record in the 16-team OUA at the Christmas Break. Lakehead is 0-1 lifetime against Lake Superior State, 2-1 vs. St. FX, and 2-3 against Calgary.

Lakehead Head Coach Pete Belliveau believes this will be the best Varsity Cup ever. "I honestly think this year's edition will be the best tournament yet, with lots of parity. On the final day of this tournament, there will be two very good teams who will not be playing, so our fans can expect high intensity, physical hockey during all seven games. Points will be hard to earn so execution, discipline, and goaltending will be the key. We are very happy to welcome Calgary and St. FX back and also very excited in hosting the Lake Superior State for their first time at the Varsity Cup. I think Lakehead fans are in for a real treat."

Lakehead features team captain and Sullivan Trophy Winner Joel Scherban anchoring the first line. Scherban (8 goals, 9 assists; 9th OUA) set the Lakehead Hockey All Time scoring mark in November and looks to set a mark that will stand for some time to come by the time this season is over. Lakehead fans can also expect the Kenora Komet, Jeff Richards (8 goals, 11 assists; 5th OUA, 16th CIS), to be a key offensive catalyst as well as smooth playmaker Peter Cava. Richards will most likely set the Lakehead all-time goal scoring mark this season as he and Scherban are both approaching that record as well. Richards is averaging more than 2 points a game in regular season play; tops among CIS scoring leaders. Linemate Peter Cava is also a threat with 3 goals and 7 assists.

Forwards Mark Robinson (5 goals, 4 assists), Brad Priestlay (1 goal, 2 assists), Andrew Brown (2 goals, 3 assists), Shandor Alphonso (2 goals, 3 assists), and Dan Speer (3 goals, 2 assists) are also dangerous as are proven Lakehead veterans Murray Magill (1 goal, 5 assists) and Jason Lange (4 goals, 7 assists). Lange showed great form in the final games heading into the holiday break. Tobias Whelan is also back from injury and should be a force at the Varsity Cup. Key forward Mike Wehrstedt (4 goals, 4 assists) will not see action at the tourney but will rejoin the Wolves in January.

The Wolves have a deep and talented defensive corps led by CIS All Canadian Erik Lodge (2 goals, 3 assists) and offensive star Mike Jacobsen (4 goals, 6 assists). Hugo Lehoux , Steve Rawski (2 assists), Mike Self (4 assists), Kris Callaway and Drew Kivell (7 assists) will also be key on the Lakehead blue line. Newcomers Matt Jacques (2 goals, 1 assist) and Dan Rogers (2 goals, 3 assists) have also played well.

The Thunderwolves goaltending tandem of Grant McCune (2-2, GAA of 2.89, 0.907 SV%) and Chris Whitley (6-2-2, GAA of 1.91, 0.931 SV%) are excellent and either can start between the pipes and both provide an excellent final line of defense in the Lakehead goal.

Calgary Dinos
The Dinos return to Thunder Bay on a mission; to capture the elusive Varsity Cup in their third attempt. The Dinos are 8-5-1 (11-10-1 overall) in Canada West play and are second to Alberta in the Mountain Division.

Head Coach Scott Atkinson and his team have made it to the tourney finals twice and this year hope to take the final step and claim the Varsity Cup. Atkinson said he loves the great atmosphere at the Fort William Gardens and his team is proud to be back at the Varsity Cup. "On behalf of everyone involved with the Dinos Hockey Program we would like to express our appreciation for once again having the opportunity to participate in this year's 2005 Varsity Cup. As the lone Canada West team in this year's tournament we will take great pride representing our conference. The Thunderwolves Hockey Organization has succeeded in creating Canada's premier university hockey tournament and the fans at the Fort William Garden generate a game atmosphere that is second to none."

Calgary had a strong recruiting year and the young, big, and fast Dinos have been playing very well in the first half of the Canada West regular season. The Dinos recorded a shutout win against their arch-rivals, the Alberta Golden Bears. Calgary has been ranked in the CIS Top 10 during the first half of the regular season as well.

Calgary has 12 first year players and the youthful team has been playing like veterans. The Dinos have a lot of firepower this year including players like assistant captain Colin McRae (8 goals, 5 assists; 13th Can West), freshman Jarret Lukin (5 goals, 16 assists: 2nd Can West, 9th CIS) Ryan Annesley (7 goals, 13 assists; 3rd Can West, 13th CIS), freshman Brett O'Malley (6 goals, 4 assists), Andre Blanchette (3 goals, 7 assists), and Wes Reid 4 (4 goals, 5 assists).

Captain Brett Thurston (1 goal, 5 assists) anchors the Dinos blueliners along with Wade Davis (2 goals, 5 assists) and Travis George. The Dinos carry three able goalies; starter Scott Talbot (6-3-4, 3.20 GAA, 0.910 SV%), backup and Acadia transfer Mike Lencucha (1-0-3, 4.54 GAA, 0.840 SV%), and third netminder Jean-Francois Martel.

The Dinos have captured 8 Canada West Championships: 1973-74, 1975-76, 1979-80, 1985-86, 1987-88, 1989-90, 1994-95, and 1995-96.

St. Francis Xavier X-Men
The X-Men return to the Varsity Cup for their second appearance. The X-Men's game against Lakehead in the first Varsity Cup in 2002 (a close 5-3 X-Men victory settled with an empty netter) is still remembered as one of the best university games played at the Gardens. The X-Men are in sixth in the AUS this season with an 8-7 record (11-10 overall) and have been ranked in the CIS Top 10.

Interim Head Coach Brad Peddle will bring a young, but very talented and deep squad that executes very well. He said his team is looking forward to the challenge. "We are very excited about playing at the Varsity Cup Tourney. We will get to test ourselves against three strong university programs and we are ready to play."

Key returning players are Captain Ryan Walsh (14 goals, 8 asssists; 7th CIS, 4th AUS), Stuart MacRae (6 goals, 18 assists; 5th CIS, 3rd AUS) and Ryan Armstrong (3 goals, 4 assists). Walsh is the sniper while MacRae is the playmaker and both are ranked among the top AUS and CIS scorers. Another scorer to watch is Colin Circelli (3 goals, 10 assists) while Justin Sudas is a very able blueliner. X has two excellent netminders in Ryan Aschaber (6-6-0, 2.99 GAA, 0.910 SV%) and Tyson Kellerman (2-1-2, 5.13 GAA, 0.830 SV%).

This year's squad has added 10 freshman including defensemen Sam Roberts (1 goal, 8 assists) and Will Colbert (1 goal, 6 assists) and forwards Nick Lees (8 goals, 2 assists), Brett Trudell (2 goals, 6 assists), and Ryan Salvis (3 goals, 6 assists). Roberts, Lees, and Salvis have all been producing offensively for X in the first half of the regular season.

St. FX has won one Canadian Universities (CIS) National Championship (2004) and were CIS finalists in 2001 and 2003. They have won 24 Atlantic University Conference (AUS) titles: 1929, `36, '37, '41, '43-`46, '50-`52, '54-`59, '63, `66-68, `76,'78, and 2004.

Lake Superior State Lakers
The No. 18 Lakers travel to Thunder Bay from fellow Lake Superior city Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with the intention of carrying the Varsity Cup to the south shore for the first time. The Lakers are 6-6-2 in CCHA play (10-4-2 overall) and are in third place in the 10-team conference at the halfway mark of the season.

Head Coach Jim Roque said his team is thrilled to take part in the tournament. "Obviously we're very excited to head up to Thunder Bay and take part in the Varsity Cup Tournament. Here at Lake State, we've had a lot of players from Thunder Bay in the 70s, 80s, and 90s so we're thrilled to get to play in front of some of our alumni as well. We've only heard fantastic things about this tournament so we know the fans are in for some great hockey and we're really looking forward to it."

Coach Roque, a native of Sudbury, Ontario, is in his first season with the Lakers and played his university hockey for the Lakers. His squad has been playing well in the first half of the regular season; recording wins over team like Colgate, Western Michigan, Bemidji State, and Notre Dame. They also defeated York early in the preseason in their only game against a CIS opponent this year.

The Lakers have returned 22 players from last year's team and have added five freshmen. Players to watch are excellent goaltender Jeff Jakaitis (9-6-4, GAA of 2.01, 0.918 SV%), forward Trent Campbell (6 goals, 8 assists), forward Nathan Ward (3 goals, 7 assists), defenseman Kory Scoran and forward Jon Booras (1 goal, 2 assists). Forwards Dominic Osman (6 goals, 2 assists), Colin Nicholson (4 goals, 4 assists) and Dan Eves (4 goals, 3 assists) can put the puck in the net. Defensemen Steve McJannet (4 goals, 5 assists) and Barnabas Birkeland (1 goal, 8 assists) can supply offense from the blue line.

The freshman include four Canadians; forward Troy Schwab (4 goals, 8 assists; Kindersley, Sask.), forward Josh Sim (2 goals, 4 assists; Saskatoon, Sask.), defenseman Matt Wheeler (1 assist; Arcola, Sask.), forward Jason Miller (1 assist; Rocanville, Sask.), as well as star freshman defenseman Marty Gurnoe (1 goal, 6 assists) from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

The Lakers have won the NCAA Division I national championship three times; 1988, 1992, and 1994. The also won the NAIA national championship in 1972 and 1974. Notable Lake State players who have gone on to the NHL include Doug Weight, Brian Rolston, John Grahame, and Bates Battaglia.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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