Manitoba's entry at the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian junior B hockey championship, which starts tomorrow in Saskatoon, will have a distinctly northern flavour.
The Manitoba champion Arborg Ice Dawgs squad includes four players from Thompson and on from Flin Flon, three of whom were members of the Norman Northstars roster during the midget hockey careers - Jeff English, Vance English, Chad Bodie and Ryan Templeton of Thompson along with Rylan Veitch of Flin Flon.
Jeff English, nearing the end of his fourth season with the Keystone Junior Hockey League team, which has won the last two KJHL championships, had the second-most points on the team this season and led the entire league with 51 goals to go along with 17 assists. He is the all-time leading scorer for the Ice Dawgs franchise, having recorded 249 points (142 goals, 107 assists) in 128 regular season games, finishing in the top four in team scoring every season and first in 2009-10. In the playoffs, he has scored 72 points (47 G, 25 A) in 43 games, leading his team in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 playoffs.
"He's been an awesome guy," said Ice Dawgs president and general manager Ivan Gulay, whose house was Jeff English's home away from home. "He's just a great person."
Veitch scored 15 goals and 30 assists in 23 games after joining the Ice Dawgs partway through the 2011-12 season, enough to fifth in team scoring, one place ahead of Jeff's younger brother Vance English, who had 13 goals and 12 assists in 34 games.
Templeton, who joined the squad at the same time as Veitch, had three goals and 11 assists for 14 points in 24 games, while Bodie, who joined Arborg later in the season, had one goal and six assists in 13 games.
The Ice Dawgs won their best-of-seven league championship series against the Norway House North Stars in just three games, picking up a forfeit win and being declared KJHL champions when the North Stars refused to show up for a game in Gimli, which was assigned as the site for their home playoff games after they were disciplined for rough play in the playoff semifinals. The Ice Dawgs led the series 2-0 at that pint, having beaten the North Stars 5-4 and 7-2 in the opening games of the series in Arborg.
The Ice Dawgs begin their quest for a Keystone Cup tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. against Alberta's Whitecourt Wolverines, then take on Traveland RV Storm from Pilot Butte, Sask. at 5:15 p.m. On Friday, they play the team representing British Columbia and the Thunder Bay Northern Hawks before finishing the round-robin on Saturday, when they face the host Saskatoon Royals. The top four teams from the round robin will advance to the championship and third-place games on April 22.
The Ice Dawgs were winless at the 2011 Keystone Cup in Sherwood Park, Alta. Jeff English finished the tournament 11th in scoring, with six goals and one assist in five games, an average of 1.4 points per game. He scored 46 per cent of his team's 13 goals in the tournament and was involved in more than 53 per cent of the Ice Dawgs' scoring.