Ochapowace steals the thunder at Senator's Cup
- Chelsea Laskowski | April 10, 2017
A successful third annual Senator’s Cup hockey tournament saw around 1,600 people walk through the doors of Prince Albert’s Art Hauser Centre daily between April 7 and 9.
The stakes were high at the weekend tournament, with the host Prince Albert Grand Council upping the ante over previous years with a first-place prize of $20,000, runner-up purse of $12,000, third-place prize of $10,000 and for the first time ever, a fourth-place prize of $4,000.
In the end, it was the Ochapowace Thunder hoisting the Senator’s Cup and taking the top cash prize after winning a frenzied final game against the Stanley Mission River Hawks with a score of 4-2 on Sunday night. The second half showed some aggressive play, with one Stanley Mission player falling to the ice and escorted to the bench with what seemed to be an ankle injury.
Earlier in the day, the Metis team St. Louis Blues took third after losing to the River Hawks.
“The plan was to bring out the best talent possible across western Canada, to represent a bunch of the communities in Saskatchewan and I think we accomplished that. We also represented the Metis communities,” said Korey Diehl, one of the tournament coordinators.
To keep the playing field even, the tournament set a cap on imports at three players: the Most Valuable Player of the tournament was one of them.
MVP Wacey Rabbit, who played for Ochapowace, is originally from the Kainai Nation in southern Alberta.
At 30, he’s a seasoned player who has spent the past five years playing in Japan, Norway and most recently in Italy.
After scoring one of the Thunder’s four goals in the final game, he said winning MVP and hoisting the trophy in Prince Albert – a city he played in his WHL days - is “the cherry on top” of a great weekend.
He admitted it’s physically demanding to play four games in a single day like his team did on “money Sunday,” especially when your team has only two or three lines playing compared to a professional team’s four lines.
“I would come off and have 10 seconds rest and right back out there,” he said.
His competition in the final game included former NHLer D.J. King, originally of Meadow Lake, and Todd Fiddler, also of Meadow Lake, who plays hockey at the top university level.
“To see the level of hockey that our people are achieving, I think it’s great. And just to be a part of that is just an honour,” Rabbit said.
Overall, 11 teams played in the tournament.