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Cole Sheffield stood on his head, Ashton Paul haunted his former team and hometown team and the Dauphin Kings are coming home with a lead in their first round series against the Blizzard.

Opening up the Turnbull Cup playoffs on Friday at the Roy H Johnston Arena, Dauphin scored two goals in the first period and held on late in a thrilling 2-1 win in game one. Ethan Williment scored Dauphin's first goal on a third chance and Paul let go of an absolute rip just inside the blue line and his goal stood up as the winner.

Sheffield was brilliant as he ended up making 38 saves in the final two periods combined to give Dauphin a 1-0 lead in their first to four series against their West Division rivals.

Game two will return to Dauphin on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. You can hear that game here on 730CKDM with Darnell Duff and Jeff Henson. 

The Predators 17U volleyball team is serving up a solid season for fans.

Based out of the Parkland, the club continues to put together strong weekend performances. At an event earlier this month in Dauphin, the Predators went undefeated in the round-robin, dispatching Russell, Vipers 16U, and Vipers 17U. 

The team then beat Russell in the championship final in straight sets to win the title. With that great weekend, they improved to 12-3 on the season at that point. Bryce Shewchuk is the team's head coach and he is very impressed with how tactically strong this team is.

"They don't quit on a ball," said Shewchuk. "Other teams will be celebrating already and we just continue to play and a lot of the time we're diving around the court and putting the ball back over the net to win the point. It's pretty impressive to watch, we have continiuous pressure."

The Predators took the Providence Junior Pilots tournament by storm in their most recent action and outlasted their opponents. Playing in a stacked field full of 16 of the top teams in the province, the Predators were the final team standing.

They finished second in their pool after round-robin play and followed that up with a thrilling three-set win against the Westman Wave to advance to the semi-finals. They beat the U16 Jr Pilots to advance to the final and playing for a gold medal, the Predators downed the Jr Bisons in straight sets, 25-20, and 25-16. 

"This group has a very high powered offence, we serve very tough with a high ace percentage," offered Shewchuk. "This group is something special, they really want to win and they always want to be the best."

Looking ahead, the Predators are gearing up for more challenges, including the Bandits tournament in Manitoba's capital and the prestigious Best of the Prairies event in Regina. With their sights set on the national championships in Edmonton in May, the team remains focused on maintaining consistency and improving their performance against top-tier opponents.

"We just want to play well and consistently leading up to the nationals," ended Shewchuk. "We will only get better by playing top teams so we're in a good spot and we're looking forward to our next event."

The 2024 Turnbull Cup playoffs get underway on Friday across the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Dauphin goes up against the Blizzard while Virden plays Neepawa. The two East Division matchups will see Portage going up against Winkler and Steinbach plays Niverville. Darnell Duff and Jeff Henson will be taking part in 730CKDM's Playoff Pick 'Em.

Below are the predictions for round one. Two points will be given for each correct series in the first round, five points will be awarded for each correct series in the second round, and 10 points will be awarded for picking the correct championship series.

Kings vs Blizzard: 

Duffy's Thoughts:  This should go down as one of the top series in the first round. Both teams beat each other three times in the regular season with Dauphin winning 2-0 in their most recent meeting. Both teams have exceptional goaltending in Tomas Anderson for the Blizzard and Cole Sheffield for the Kings. Both teams work extremely hard and while goals should be hard to come by, it will be interesting to see what player comes up with a timely goal

Duffy's Prediction: Dauphin in 6

Henny's Thoughts: Should be the best series of the opening round. Two very evenly matched clubs.  Key matchups will be the starting goalies and the Kings' power play against the Blizzard's penalty kill.  A pick-em series that will go the full seven games.

Henny's Prediction: Blizzard in 7

Oil Capitals vs Titans:

Duffy's Thoughts:  The Titans are making their return to the big dance for the first time since 2017 when they lost in the first round against Steinbach. They are one of the hardest-working teams in the league and Ken Pearson has them playing some very good hockey. If Mason Lobreau can play solid in the net, the Titans could pull off an upset against a team that advanced to the league final last year.

Duffy's Prediction: Titans in 6 

Henny's Thoughts: Neepawa's first playoff appearance since 2017 will give them a boost.  If Neepawa goalie Mason Lebreau stands on his head, there is the potential for an upset.  But Virden has too much experience from last year's run to the final and too much depth at all positions to not get out of round one. 

Henny's Prediction: Oil Capitals in 6

Pistons vs Nighthawks:

Duffy's Thoughts:  They won 47 games this season, five more than they won last year in the regular season when they won the MJHL and represented Manitoba at the Centennial Cup. Most teams are wondering, how do you stop the Steinbach Pistons? While this year's edition of the Pistons is beatable, the Nighthawks do not have nearly enough to achieve that feat over a seven-game series.

Duffy's Prediction: Steinbach in 5

Henny's Thoughts: Raiden Legall could steal one game at home for the Nighthawks, but he can't win this series by himself.  The defending champion Pistons are just way too deep for Niverville.

Henny's Prediction: Steinbach in 5

Portage vs Winkler:

Duffy's Thoughts: Both teams play heavily, both teams can score, and both teams have good goaltending. This series is shaping up to be a classic. Portage won four of five games against the Flyers in the regular season, three of which were one-goal games. Both teams have a very strong complement of 20-year-old firepower with the Flyers boasting the top two scorers in the league in Dalton Andrew and Trent Penner while the Terriers feature Gabriel Laflamme and Slade Stanick. This should be fun.

Duffy's Prediction: Portage in 6

Henny's Thoughts: The Flyers are deeper in all three areas (forward, defence, and goal) than the Terriers.  As long as they can cut down on the number of penalties they take due to their physical forecheck, they will survive a good challenge from Portage.

Henny's Prediction: Winkler in 6 

The big dance opens Friday and don't forget, you can hear all of the Kings playoff action with Darnell Duff. 

It was a storybook ending to what will go down as an incredibly successful hockey journey for a Parkland star.

Caitlin Fillion of Gilbert Plains fell in love with hockey when she was just a young girl and when the Grand Plains Ice Dogs first became a team at the Atom age group eight years ago, Fillion jumped at the chance to play with them.

Now nearly a decade later, Fillion has graduated from the program and gone out as a champion. Hundreds of hours spent at the rink, travelling around the province, and spending time with her teammates are just a few of the things Caitlin has loved over the past eight years being a part of the Ice Dogs.

"It was such a cool experience to play hockey with just girls," said Fillion. "As I grew up in an all-girls environment, it showed you a different type of sportsmanship and friendships that will last a lifetime. I feel like I am very lucky that I had the chance to experience all of it over the last eight years."

Made up of girls from across the Parkland region, the Ice Dogs were a force to be reckoned with not only in Manitoba but across the prairies as well. Playing in the Rural Manitoba Female Hockey League here in our province, the Ice Dogs ventured out to Saskatchewan for several tournaments over the years, and this year, they brought home a pair of banners and some flashy gold medals to show off.

Playing in the Foxes Tournament in Prince Albert this year, the Ice Dogs won the event and showed that female hockey in the Parkland is in great hands.

"It was a great feeling, everyone always likes to win," offered Fillion. "There was so much happiness this year among us all and we achieved so much, it was a pretty incredible year."

Back in Manitoba in league play, it came right down to the wire as the Ice Dogs went up against Rivers in the championship series. After dropping game four 3-2, a championship was on the line as the Ice Dogs hosted game five at the GACC. Hundreds of fans packed the stands to cheer on the Ice Dogs as they scored early and often in cruising to a 5-2 win to win a league championship in their home arena.

After falling short last year, Fillion says that made winning this year feel that much sweeter.

"It felt so good with all of the support and how loud the rink was," said Fillion. "I feel so lucky to have all of that support from people from my town as well as all my family and friends. Our team worked so incredibly hard to get to this point, it was the perfect way to end my U18 career."

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As Fillion reflects on her final season with the Ice Dogs, she does so with pride and gratitude. Her achievements, leading the league in goals against average and shutouts, are a testament to her skill and dedication. However, she quickly credits her teammates for their collective efforts in achieving their goals.

Caitlin went 6-2 in the regular season with two shutouts and an exceptional 2.08 goals-against average. Then come playoff time, Fillion won three of her four starts, posting a 1.25 goals-against average and two shutouts. 

It was Fillion's final season as a member of the Ice Dogs and it was one that she will forever remember.

"It's a proud moment for me," Fillion concluded. "I feel I contributed significantly to our success. Huge thanks to my teammates for their stellar play throughout the season. Together, we aimed high and reached many milestones."

Caitlin now plans to attend Brandon University to study as she hopes to one day become a teacher. 

Jordyn Foxon was the hero of the Parkland Fury U9 girls' hockey team.

Playing in a season-ending jamboree, Foxon scored the game-winning goal in a thrilling 2-1 overtime win against Birtle Western Storm in the event's championship. 

The team is made up of players from McCreary, Ste. Rose, Winnipegosis, Dauphin, Swan River, Roblin, and they went a perfect 5-0 at the tournament. They also beat the Ice Breakers, Pierson Bruins, Rivers Huskies, and the Minnedosa Bombers. 

 

They were fresh off winning a league championship just months prior and that led to a run at the national championships that saw the club advance to the Final 4 where they came up short against the Pickering Panthers.

Eight players graduated and a few others decided to play elsewhere heading into the 2022-23 season. The Kings were champions of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) season in 2021-22 after a seven-game series win against Steinbach in the league final. They had hopes of defending their title the next season and Dauphin once again advanced to the playoffs as they won 32 games. It wasn't to be ultimately; however, as Dauphin lost in six games to Swan Valley.

Back this year with a group of returnees and several new players to the organization, the Kings were looking to get back on top in what has turned out to be quite a stacked leaderboard in Manitoba. As this current season has gone on, the Kings have shown signs of excellence and they have stumbled as well. Facing about as much adversity as possible from injuries to a coach's suspension to losing streaks and big winning streaks, the 2023-24 season has provided about everything in the hockey world for the Kings. 

While Dauphin was projected to finish near the bottom of the standings heading into the season, Doug Hedley and the remainder of the coaching staff put a solid roster in place, and through their 58-game schedule, the Kings finished with 38 wins, an increase of six from last year. The Kings won 41 games when they won the league title two seasons ago. Dauphin started their season with 13 wins in their first 15 games and then faced a rough patch which saw them lose 10 of their final 13 before the Christmas break.

Along came the trade deadline on January 10 and Dauphin made some sizeable moves as they sent Anthony Bax to the Flin Flon Bombers, Aidan Brook to the Portage Terriers, and Nolan Wickham to the Winkler Flyers. The Kings brought in Ashton Paul, Brett Magarrel, and Ty Pratte. 

Dauphin won their first seven games of 2024 and they finished the season with 22 wins in their final 30 games of the campaign. With a regular season record of 38-17-2-1, the Kings finished with 79 points which puts them in third place in the West Division, only behind the Blizzard and Virden Oil Capitals.

"The most satisfying aspect of the whole thing was the work ethic," said Doug Hedley. "I would say we exceeded our expectations in the second half and it has put us in a spot to go on what we believe can be a very good playoff run."

Returning from the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, Cayden Glover led the Kings offensively with 20 goals and 28 assists in 50 games while Jordan Bax, who played 56 games, finished with 21 goals and 26 assists. Naaman Hofer (45), Logan Walker (44), and Alex Senf (36) round out the team's top five scorers from the regular season.

Cole Sheffield, who was named a second-team all-star, finished the season with 28 wins which was the second-most in the league. He also had a .921 save percentage to go along with a 2.38 goals-against average. The 19-year-old from London was also a nominee for the league's top goaltender award.

The Road Leads Up North:

The last time the Kings and Blizzard met in the playoffs was in the 2013-14 season. Dauphin won 40 games in the regular season that year while the Blizzard won 21 and Dauphin dispatched the Blizzard in four games in their first-round matchup. 

While either team this year certainly has the capability of earning a sweep, hockey fans should certainly not expect one. Separated by three points in the standings, Dauphin and the Blizzard will match up in what is expected to be one of the more interesting series across the league. They split their six regular-season meetings and the Kings are coming off a 2-0 win. Dauphin also won their final four games of the regular season while the Blizzard, who recently had a 12-game winning streak snapped, won nine of their last 10 games.

Neither team has a perennial sniper or player that will take over the series; however, both teams boast incredible goaltending. Tomas Anderson was named the league's top goaltender after an incredible rookie season between the pipes. The 19-year-old from Minnesota boasted a .931 save percentage to go along with a 2.10 goals-against average as he won 25 games. 

Is Sheffield Ready?

He was given the reigns as the team's number-one goalie ahead of last season. Cole then won 15 games and had solid regular season numbers. However; his numbers did not translate to playoff success as Cole went 1-1-1 with a .898 save percentage to go along with a 3.57 goals-against average. 

It just did not seem that Cole could make a timely save. This year, Sheffield is playing much calmer, and with it, Doug Hedley is expecting a lot from his 19-year-old netminder.

"You have to live it and he went through it last year, he had all of the pressure on him," said Hedley. "It's about believing in yourself and knowing you're a very good goaltender and Cole is. He will carry us as far as we go."

Cole has stolen games and for the most part, he has been extremely consistent this year. If he can continue with his hot play, the Kings have a very good chance in their first round.

Seniors Aren't Ready to Say Good Bye:

They're young and inexperienced. Many players will look towards Alex Senf and Logan Walker for leadership starting on Friday. Senf and Walker are the only 20-year-old players on the Kings roster.

They both finished in the team's top five scorers and Hedley is grateful for their contributions.

"I can't say enough about Walker, he is a tremendous kid on and off the ice, he has a great future ahead of him and I can't thank him enough for the willingness to come to the rink to get better every day," offered Hedley. "Senf's work ethic has increased and he has been one of our better players as of late. We know he is ready for this and we are very proud of him for wearing our crest."

First to Four:

All regular season statistics are thrown out the window and it's a fresh start. Both teams lost in the first round last year, Dauphin to Swan Valley while the Blizzard came up short against Virden. As we near the beginning of this best-of-seven which could go down as a classic, let's take a look at how they faired against each other in the regular season.

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There was not much to separate these two teams. They played each other very closely and as the action gets underway Friday night in The Pas, Doug Hedley knows it's all about coming out ready to fight and ready to get the job done.

"The biggest thing is matching their urgency, their stick battles, and everything that they do," ended Hedley. "We feel that there are some areas that we are better at. We need to get pucks towards the net and fight for rebounds. The guys are ready to go, it's an exciting moment."

You can catch all of the action with Darnell Duff. Here is a full series schedule.

REGULAR SEASON SERIES

It was the end of an incredible run for a few members of the Grand Plains Ice Dogs.

The program began play in the 2016-17 season with an Atom team and years later, some of those players are set to graduate. Carli Durston is not one of those players that will graduate as she has one more year left of U18 play.

She has played with the program for the past seven years and the team has enjoyed its fair share of success during this time.

"I have really enjoyed playing with this group of girls, I believe we all work very well together," said Durston. "Everyone contributes and that is why we were able to enjoy so much success. We have a very talented group of girls and I'm already looking forward to seeing what we can achieve next season."

It was a storybook ending for those graduating players like Caitlin Fillion, who Darnell Duff will catch up with very soon. While it isn't always about winning and losing, no doubt winning feels exceptional and the Ice Dogs can share first-hand how great it feels to win.

Earlier this year at a tournament in Prince Albert, the team won all five of their games to win the Foxes Tournament. 

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Following that championship, the team returned to the Parkland to focus on league play. After a slow start, the Ice Dogs started to click around the mid-portion of the season and when they caught fire, no one could stop them.

Then with a chance to win their league on home ice at the GACC earlier this month, hundreds of people packed the GACC as they hoped to witness history in the making. After losing game four to Rivers which forced a deciding fifth game, the Ice Dogs scored early and often in a 5-2 victory as they won the league title. 

For the graduating players, it was the perfect send-off to an incredible journey with the Ice Dogs. For Carli, it was a beautiful send-off to the season and it now has her wanting more when the next season begins.

"It was so special, we lost in Gilbert Plains in double overtime the previous year which was heartbreaking," offered Durston. "It was great to win at home in front of so many special people. We had the chance to celebrate with our family and friends after, it was pretty incredible and it was a moment that I will never forget."

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Carli will certainly make many more great memories next season, but for now, she's looking back on the past seven years and thinking what a run.

"We have won a medal at provincials every year except one and we also won a provincial championship back in Atom," ended Durston. "We won a tournament in Saskatoon and of course that one in Prince Albert, that's very exciting. I love being an Ice Dog and I can't wait for next season. 

Some people would say the two top goaltenders in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League will go head-to-head in a best-of-seven playoff series.

Some would disagree, but regardless of whether you do or don't, Cole Sheffield will go up against Tomas Anderson. Round one between the Kings and Blizzard gets underway on Friday night at the Roy H Johnston Arena in the Pas. The two teams split their season series as Dauphin won three games as did the Blizzard.

Game two of the series will return to Dauphin on Sunday afternoon.

 REGULAR SEASON SERIES

The 14U Predators continue to impress on the court.

In their most recent performance, the team finished in third place out of 32 going up against some of the best teams in the province. At the BVC tournament in Brandon, the team opened up play with wins against Offspeed and the Power Phantoms as the Parkland-based club finished first in their pool.

The Predators then beat the Regina Cougars in straight sets before a thrilling 28-26 and 27-25 quarterfinal win against Pilots Navy. The team's run to a title ended in the semi-finals as they lost to Club West Rage in three sets; however, the Predators responded to come home with medals as they beat Empire Blue in three-sets in the bronze medal match.

Next up for the Predators is an exhibition match against the Parkland Vipers before they head to Winnipeg for the Bandits tournament at the end of the month. 

 

They showed up to practice early and once it was time to fine-tune their skills and develop, they were ready to go.

When it came to game day, they came to the rink with their game faces on and gave it their all. The 2023-24 edition of the Russell U11 Rams hockey team was a group that pushed themselves to their limits. Whether it was winning a game or coming up short, the Rams never gave up.

"It's a complete team, everyone works hard and everyone on our team played a role," said Will Moncrief, head coach. "It was a pleasure to coach them, everyone wanted to learn and grow."

It also turned out to be a season to remember for Russell. With a provincial title on the line back on March 3, Brixton Desaulniers scored three times and added five assists for an incredible eight-point showing as the Rams won a provincial title with a convincing 10-5 win against Miami.

Ethan Katchin had two goals in the game as did Tavrey Reichmuth while Lucas Moncrief had one goal and four assists and John Bryer won the game between the pipes.

"They were a very excited group when the final buzzer went, gloves and sticks went flying," offered Moncrief. "It was a great experience to be a part of and I know all of our players and myself included will never forget about that moment."

Following their run to a provincial title, the Rams wrapped up their season in the Parkissimo League, and what a finish it was. After going 10-1 in the regular season, Russell beat Shoal Lake/ Birtle in the first round to advance to the finals.

In the championship series against Neepawa C, the Rams made quick work of Neepawa as they won the series in two straight. In two weeks, Russell won a provincial championship banner and now, they won a league championship banner.

"It was a great way to end the season," ended Moncrief. "We always have some great games against Neepawa and it was no different during our playoff series against them. It was a great season for our group, I am so proud of each and every player for all the work they put in."

The Dauphin Kings wrapped up their season by winning a fourth straight contest.

Playing their regular season finale, Dauphin ended up cruising against the Steelers in a 6-3 win. Paired with a Niverville win, the Steelers have been eliminated from playoff action. 

Logan Walker led the way for Dauphin as he scored three times in the victory. Havryil Simchuk, Cayden Glover, and Madden Murray also scored for Dauphin. 

Dauphin will open their first round playoff series against the Blizzard on Friday. In the meantime, get set for the playoff primer hosted by Darnell Duff and he will be joined by Jeff Henson from 8:15 to 11:00 on Wednesday.