Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top 12 Of 2012

As the calendar heads towards the beginning of 2013, it is time to look back at the year that was and look at the events that shaped 2012. Here are my top 12 sporting moments---good or bad in Regina.

#12--Kelly Wiebe Makes A Name For Himself 

There are many great athletes at the University of Regina. There are many great athletes that have represented the University of Regina. If all goes well, this Cougar could be the U of R's first Olympic medallist.  Wiebe gave the University a CIS title when he won the mens cross-country race, but it was one of many achievements for the 23 year old from Swift Current. He won a prestigious race in Vancouver and finished 3rd at the Canadians giving him a shot to compete at the World Championships in Poland in March. Wiebe has said it is hope to run for Canada in long distance events at the 2016 Olympics. That's a long ways away, but if he continues on the path he is, don't be surprised to see him in Rio carrying Canadian colours.

#11-Akiem Hicks Gets Drafted 

I don't know how many guys have been drafted into the NFL from a CIS school, but the University of Regina Rams can say they have had one. Akiem Hicks was to have played football at Louisiana State University, but something happened and he never played a down for Les Miles and the Tigers---a team that lost the 2011 BCS Title game to Alabama. Rams head coach Frank McCrystal got wind of Hicks and convinced him to come to Regina to play football where he had two impressive seasons. US scouts didn't forget. After impressing at the combine, the New Orleans Saints drafted Hicks in the 3rd round--89th overall. Hicks has seen significant time on the Saints d-line in 2012 recording 20 tackles in his rookie season which has been cut short by injury.

#10-Raising 7 To The Rafters

Jordan Eberle is one of the best ever players to wear the uniform of the Regina Pats. The team recognized that in December by retiring his jersey putting his number 7 alongside the likes of Doug Wickenheiser,  Dennis Sobchuk and Dale Derkatch. Some questioned whether or not someone who was just out of junior hockey should have his number retired, but the popular consensus was if anyone deserved to have that happen to them it was Eberle who has not forgotten Regina even though he has become one of the top players in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers.

Tom Vernon of Global Regina did an outstanding piece on his show "Focus Saskatchewan" that airs on Global Saturday nights at 630. Here is Tom's piece on Eberle and the jersey retirement...

#9 - The Cougars Womens Soccer Program Arrives 

The University of Regina womens soccer team has had it tough since they started play in the CIS. They were basically a doormat and a free spot on the bingo card for a while---but not in 2012.  Head Coach Bob Maltman got everything he could out of his team and they were rewarded with their first ever Top 10 ranking. In what may have been one of the more dramatic contests played in Regina this year, the Cougars beat the University of Saskatchewan in a shootout on a cold afternoon to advance to the Canada West final four where they were beaten by the number one ranked school in Canada from Trinity Western.  Its great to see another program at the U of R flourish.

#8 - Amber Holland Rink Breaks Up

Amber Holland's rink consisting of herself, Tammy Schneider, Kim Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk did Regina and Canada proud by finishing 2nd at the 2011 World Championships. The Holland rink tried to make it two Scotties in a row at the 2012 Canadians, but they didn't seem to be on the same page and finished with a 6-5 record. Shortly after the curling season ended, Holland announced the team was splitting up and going their separate ways. Amber got herself a new team a couple of months later as she is now with Jolene Campbell, Brooklyn Lemon and Dalene Sivertson. Whether or not, the new Holland foursome can have the same success as the old Holland foursome is yet to be seen, but Amber is still a force on the provincial curling scene and she will be out to regain another provincial championship this February in Balgonie as her rink has already qualified.

#7 - Regina Gets A New Football Team 

Their arrival was met with controversy. The Lingerie Football League announced early in 2012 that one of the teams in its new Canadian league would be based in Regina. Women would be playing football wearing lingerie at the Brandt Centre. As expected, it was met with outrage by many with the Regina Riot of the Western Canadian Womens Football League being one of the major complainers saying the Riot would do nothing but diminish their product which sees them play the game in full equipment and not very little. Led by local product Kylie Rossler, the Rage didn't let the negative publicity harm them. In fact, they turned it into a positive as their two home games were met in a very positive fashion as people who went to the games found out it wasn't the powderpuff football they thought it might be as these women played a hard-hitting, ferocious game. As long as LFL Canada is in existence, expect the Rage to be as well.

#6-Mark McMorris Wins X Games Gold 

A snowboarder from the prairies? That was the question many had as Mark McMorris exploded onto the scene. The 18 year old has become one of the top competitors in his sport. He proved that by winning two gold medals at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado and becoming the first person in the history of snowboarding to achieve a backside triple cork 1440. One has to think we will see McMorris at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

#5- Cougar Womens Basketball Team Can't Bring Home A Title 

The womens basketball team has been the marquee team at the U of R for the past number of years. Christine Stapleton, Jeff Speedy and current coach Dave Taylor have made the program a perennial contender. While always a contender for a national title, they have only won one Canadian championship. 2012 looked to be the year that "The Bronze Baby" would come back to the U of R as Taylor assembled a great squad led by Joanna Zalesiak who was named Canada West MVP. The team went through the season undefeated, but the team suffered their first loss of the year at an inopportune time as they were downed on their home floor 78-59 by UBC in the Canada West Championship game. The Cougars were still ranked #1 going into the Nationals despite being tripped up by UBC in the Canwest final. Their first game would be a tough one though as they were taking on the host Dinosaurs. It was too much for the team as they were upset 75-66. The team ended up finishing a disappointing 5th---disappointing in the fact that the team only lost two games all year but they were obviously big losses. 

#4- Romby Bryant Ends The Riders Season 

 It was an up and down season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. After a horrible 2011, Corey Chamblin was brought in to be the head coach of the team. He and general manager Brendan Taman had a major job in front of them to make this team respectable and they did so. The Riders stormed out of the gate winning their first three games. They then lost five in a row before going on a streak that saw them win 5 of 6. When they beat eventual Grey Cup champion Toronto at Rogers Centre on Thanksgiving Day, no one saw a late season collapse coming as the team lost their final four. It meant a Western semi-final matchup in Calgary against a Stampeders team that was heavily favoured.  Down 26-16 in the 4th, the Riders staged a furious comeback and when Darian Durant threw his 4th TD pass of the day to Greg Carr with 121 to go, it looked like the Riders were off to BC for the Western Final.  However, Drew Tate took advantage of a misplay in the secondary to find a wide open Romby Bryant for a 68 yard touchdown pass just 30 seconds later as Calgary ended the Riders season with a heartbreaking 36-30 win. 

#3-Marc Mueller Guts His Team To A Victory 

The University of Regina Rams got to the Hardy Cup final getting beat by the University of Calgary in the conference championship game. One of the reasons why the Rams were in the game was 5th year quarterback Marc Mueller. The grandson of the iconic Ron Lancaster was having an all-star calibre season as he led his team into a Friday night game against Manitoba at Mosaic Stadium.  The Bisons had a 27-23 lead with two minutes to go and the ball deep in Regina's end. Mueller took a huge hit on an incompletion. It was obvious he had re-injured the shoulder that cost him his 2011 season. Mueller gutted it out and led his team down the field capping it off with a 23 yard pass to Connor Haas for a touchdown and a 30-27 win. Mueller would sit out the next couple of games before coming back to throw for 393 yards and two touchdowns in what likely is his last appearance in a meaningful game at Mosaic Stadium as he led the Rams to the Hardy Cup with a win over the U of S on a snow-covered field. While that game will be remembered by some, for this blogger, it will be the way he willed his team down the field to a victory against the Bisons. 

#2-The Pats Get "Clipped"

The Regina Pats were not expected to do much in the 2011-12 WHL season. OOPS! First year coach Pat Conacher and GM Chad Lang got everything they could out of the team and led by Jordan Weal they made the playoffs for the first time in many years. What better first round opponent to have than the arch-rival Moose Jaw Warriors.....a team that was much better than the Pats on paper and a team that wanted a league championship to commemorate their first year in their brand new building --Mosaic Place. Regina shocked the Warriors in Game 1 by winning in Moose Jaw. Moose Jaw came back to win Games 2 and 3 setting up a pivotal Game 4 in Regina.  The Pats led the hockey game and it would appear as if they would have the momentum going back to Moose Jaw for Game 5. However, with seven minutes left and Regina leading by one, Dyson Stevenson was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for clipping. The penalty left the Pats outraged. Moose Jaw tied the game to send it into overtime and they won it 5-4 in double overtime on a goal by Brayden Point. Moose Jaw won the series in Game 5, but many were left wondering what would have happened had it not been for "The Clip".

#1 - Saving The Best For Last 

The last home game of the year for the Regina Red Sox was my personal number one highlight of the year. Those that were there left Currie Field thinking they had seen a classic. The Red Sox and Medicine Hat Mavericks were going at it in Game 2 of the WMBL final with the Red Sox holding a 1-0 series lead. The Mavericks had the lead until Regina tied it in the 8th and then won it in the 11th on a Josh Young homer. Regina would then go to beat the Mavericks in 4 to take home the league title for a 2nd year in a row. 

That's my top 12 for this year. If I wanted to expand it and include Saskatchewan, the exploits of Weyburn's Graham DeLaet on the PGA Tour, the Saskatoon Hilltops winning another Canadian title, Saskatoon's Kaylyn Kyle winning bronze at the Olympics with the ladies soccer team, the RBC Cup in Humboldt and the resignation of Dwight McMillan as coach of the Weyburn Red Wings would certainly have made the list. 

2013 will see the Red Sox look for a 3rd WMBL crown, the CIS womens basketball championship being held in Regina and of course, the Grey Cup. It will be a great year.


Anonymous said...

Great wrap-up Mitch. Thanks for focusing so much on U of R Athletics, which is an underappreciated gem in the city of Regina.

Anonymous said...

The call against the Pats was still the biggest BS call I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

The final Red Sox game was a classic. Its too bad more people don't realize what kind of ball that is. Its very entertaining.


Anonymous said...

I gotta go with Anon 1 says. The U of R gets a lot of coverage, but they still get drowned out by the likes of the Riders and Pats. Any press they get is good press.


Anonymous said...

Nice job on this Scruffy. I don't know if I would have them ranked the same way, but good job! Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Well done Mitch. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I'd have had the Rage at number 1. Hot women playing football in their underwear while I sit there and drink cold beer with buds. Is there anything better?