Panther Atoms take Nickel City Playdowns

SUDBURY—The Manitoulin Panthers Atom B team finished its season on a high note, taking the championship title in the Nickel District Minor Hockey League Playdowns over the weekend in Sudbury.

The Panthers finished the regular season ranked second, pushing them to the top in division play where they faced the top four teams in the league in round-robin play, winning two of three games. Finishing second overall advanced the Panthers to the championship game where they faced off against the Nickel City Junior Sons, a minor AA team.

“It was a close game,” said manager Stacey Lewis of M’Chigeeng.

The Panthers came on strong, scoring the first goal with the Junior Sons coming back to notch one for themselves. By the end of the first period, it was 2-1 Panthers followed by two more goals for the Island team in the second. The Junior Sons scored once more in the third but it wasn’t enough and the Panthers took the title 4-2, winning the Toe Blake Trophy. (Toe Blake was a Coniston-born NHL player known for his 10 Stanley Cup wins with the Montreal Canadiens, as a player and later as coach.)

According to Nickel District Hockey League President Joe McColeman, Manitoulin has never won the Toe Blake Trophy in its 32-year history. In any Atom division, the Manitoulin Panthers have only ever won the B Division (Gerald McCrory Division) three times: in 1992-1993, 2002-2003 and 2007-2008.

Each of the three girls on the Panthers team left with an MVP trophy as well, rounding out an exceptionally successful weekend.

This topped off a great year for the Atom team, which held a record of 28-9-6. The team won the Steel Blades tournament in Sudbury in November, the Nickel City Rocks A/AA tournament in January and a silver at the recent Tournament of Champions in Little Current, only failing to come home with hardware from the Soo Peewee Extravaganza, despite their two wins and one loss.

“They’ve been really, really successful,” Ms. Lewis said.