Top 10 local sports stories of 2013

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National champion figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond gets the nod for No. 1

Hockey being the most popular sport in this province, it can’t be surprising that that five of the The Telegram’s selections as the top sports stories in this province in 2013 relate to that game.
But while our choice as Newfoundland and Labrador’s biggest sports story of the just-finished year took place on the ice and involved an athlete on blades, it wasn’t about hockey.

Marystown native Kaetlyn Osmond won the Canadian senior women’s figure skating championship in 2013, becoming the first person from this province to claim a national senior title in the sport. But Osmond, who lives and trains out of Alberta, might be in store for an even bigger story in 2014 as she attempts to earn a place at the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

Between our top 10 and nine more honourable mentions, nine different sports and one major multi-sport event are featured below Most of the stories involve accomplishment, although there are a couple of instances where disappointment is the central theme.

Debate them as you wish, re-order them for yourself if you feel so inclined, add to the list if you are compelled, but here are the top 10 stories that caught the attention of The Telegram’s sports department — and we believe our readers, as well — in 2013:

 

1. Osmond skates toward Sochi

There were injury problems in between, but Osmond had a fantastic start and strong finish in 2013, setting herself up for what she hopes will be an even more memorable 2014.

In January, the 18-year-old Marystown native won her first Canadian senior women’s figure skating title in Mississauga, Ont., following up on her bronze-medal showing in the 2012 event and a Skate Canada title that same year.

Osmond’s national triumph marked the first time in a decade that a skater from outside of Quebec had claimed the Canadian women’s senior title. Cynthia Phaneuf (2004, 2011), Joanie Rochette (2005-2010) and Amelie Lacoste (2012) had been the previous champions.

The Canadian crown also earned Osmond her first berth at a world senior championships in London, Ont., where she was eighth, thereby securing Canada two berths in the senior female division at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Osmond also skated internationally at the 2013 Four Continents competition in Osaka, Japan, finishing seventh.

But her 2013-14 skating season began painfully. Osmond suffered a stress reaction in her left foot in September, curtailing her training, then injured her right hamstring as she attempted to defend her Skate Canada International title at Saint John, N.B., the following month. The latter meant she had to withdraw from the Rostelecom Cup, a Grand Prix event in Moscow, in November.

However, in December, although admittedly not fully healthy, Osmond won at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina as she debuted a new free program based on the life of Cleopatra. It came just days after her 18th birthday.

Osmond will defend her national title Jan. 9-15 at Ottawa as she looks to gain a spot on the Canadian team for Sochi. She needs a top-two finish in the nation’s capital to do so.

When she was eight, Osmond, her parents and her sister Natasha moved to Montreal where the girls could train with renowned figure skating coach Josie Picard. Two years later, the Osmond’s moved again, this time to Alberta, where Kaetlyn has lived and trained ever since. However, she has always maintained she represents Marystown and Newfoundland, as well as her adopted home, whenever she skates.

“I never thought the Olympics were even possible for me,” she told The Telegram during a visit to Newfoundland in early September, one that included a hero’s welcome in Marystown. “Now, here I am on the cusp of going.

“And I used to think a medal at the Olympics was way beyond reach.”

 

2. The CeeBees take a Cinderella turm

In February, Conception Bay North Eastlink CeeBee Stars were in a state of turmoil. A month later, they were in a state of euphoria.

The CeeBees had finished the 2012-13 Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL) regular season with a record of 7-15-1, narrowly clinching the fourth and final playoff berth on the final weekend of the schedule. Then, just days before the start of an opening-round playoff series against the top-seeded Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts,  head coach and Harbour Grace native Corey Crocker was dismissed.

But with Ian Moores behind the bench, the CeeBees knocked off the Cataracts 4-2 in a best-of-seven semifinal series, then swept the defending champion Clarenville Caribous, finishing things off at home in Harbour Grace.

It was C.B.N.’s eighth Telegram Herder Memorial Trophy Championship Series title and first since 2008. In their remarkable run, the CeeBees won more playoff games (eight) then they did in the regular season (seven).

If they are to repeat as Herder champions in 2014, the CeeBees may have to repeat their Cinderella performance.

Heading into Christmas, the team had a 4-9-1 record and was in fifth place in the six-team NLSHL

 

3. 3Cheers for a second consecutive

national championship

For 3Cheers Pub/Bud Light, the 2013 national senior men’s softball championship it won Sept. 1 in Stratford Ont., might have been its second straight Canadian crown, but this one definitely felt better for the Newfoundland team, given how it was won.

Brad Ezekiel’s seventh-inning walkoff homer gave 3Cheers a 5-4 win over Scarborough, Ont., and allowed him and his teammates to finally get to celebrate on the diamond.

At the 2012 Canadian tournament in Fredericton, N.B., rain had forced a postponement of the final between the Newfoundlanders and Kitchener, Ont., in the fourth inning. The teams returned to their hotel rooms waiting for the weather to break, but it never did.

The game was finally called, and the championship awarded to the St. John’s-based team.

 

4. Under-18 girls soccer team left

to look for a silver lining

They came oh so close to grabbing gold, but players on the St. John’s entry at the 2018 Canadian female under-18 soccer championship were left clutching silver medals after a dramatic 1-0 home-field loss to Quebec on Oct. 14.

The final, played at King George V Park in St. John’s, saw the teams go scoreless through regulation and overtime before Quebec prevailed 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout.

Both teams had 4-0 records entering the game, with the Newfoundland team having beaten opponents from Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia along the way.

The Jake Stanford-coached team had also claimed a silver medal in April at the Dallas International Girls Cup in Texas and won the Atlantic Canada showcase in Halifax, but had to deal with the disappointment of finishing out of the medals at the Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que.

 

5. Herd halted in Alberta

The Clarenville Caribous can only hope that home ice will eventually be as good to them.

In April, the Caribous went to Alberta looking for their second Allan Cup national senior hockey championship in three years, only to lose 3-0 to the host Bentley Generals in the 2013 Allan Cup final, played in Red Deer. Bentley is a small town located about 30 kilometres from Red Deer.

Clarenville had won both its preliminary-round games and then defeated the Rosetown, Sask., Red Wings 6-2 in the semifinals. With 18 goals in those three contests, the Caribous had the highest-scoring offence in the tourney, but ran into a stingy Generals defence — Bentley had allowed just four goals in three games heading into the final — and a hot goalie in Dan Bakala in the game that decided it all.

Affiliate player Chris Hulit of the Caribous won the tournament scoring parade with five point (three goals and two assists). He and teammate Mike Dyke were named all-stars.

Clarenville will take another shot at an Allan Cup title in 2014, when the team heads to Dundas, Ont. for 106th annual tournament.

 

6. Davis helps Minny to the max

Paradise native Sarah Davis played a big role in helping the Minnesota Golden Gophers win the NCAA women's hockey championship in Minneapolis — the school’s second straight NCAA title — in late March.

Minnesota downed Boston University 6-3 in the final to complete the first unbeaten season in U.S. women's college hockey history. But Davis’s hero’s turn came two nights before the championship game, when the 20-year-old forward scored the game-winner in overtime in a 3-2 semifinal decision against Boston College.

Davis, who won a bronze medal with Canada’s under-22 team at the Meco Cup in Germany in January, had seven goals and 25 points in 37 games with the Gophers in 2012-13.

Minnesota’s winning streak ended at 62 games in November with a 3-2 loss to North Dakota, but the team (19-1-0) still enters 2014 as No. 1-ranked in United States, and Davis has had much to do with that. A senior and assistant captain, she has 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 20 games this season, good for third on the team and third overall among all Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) players. However, when it comes to conference-only games, Davis leads everyone in the WCHA, with 21 points in 14 games.

 

7. Newfoundlanders who moved

(and one who didn’t) in NHL free agency

Three Newfoundlanders switched teams as National Hockey League free agents over the summer, but the most news was made by one who stay put.

After a summer of uncertainty, and just as all signs pointed to his leaving the Detroit Red Wings after eight seasons, veteran forward Danny Cleary and the Wings agreed in on a one-year $1.75 million deal just as the NHL club was beginning its training camp.

In doing so, Cleary left a lot of money on a table back east,

The agreement with the Red Wings came just days after the 34-year-old winger from Riverhead, Harbour Grace had said yes to a Philadelphia Flyers’ offer to attend training camp on a professional tryout and later sign a three-year, $8.25 million deal once the Flyers had freed up salary-cap space.

The NHL’s salary cap had everything to do with what transpired with Cleary in the off-season.

Throughout he summer, Cleary let it be known his heart was in Detroit, where he had won a Stanley Cup in 2008. But he had turned down the Wings’ initial offer at the start of free agency and then, after a number of free-agent signings — including that of Daniel Alfredsson — Detroit found itself in a salary-cap crunch and unable to find money or space for Cleary, at least until the last-minute deal.

While Cleary stayed with his old team, three other NHLers from this province switched sides in free agency, two going to the same team.

Ryane Clowe of Fermeuse got the biggest payoff, a five-year, $24.25 million contract from the New Jersey Devils on July 5, the first day of free agency. It meant the 31-year-old forward would be crossing the Hudson River after having finished the previous season with the New York Rangers. He had been traded to New York late in the season by San Jose after seven years with the Sharks.

On the same day Clowe joined New Jersey, Bonavista native Michael Ryder signed on with the Devils, getting a two-year, $7-million contract.

Unlike Clowe, this was not the 33-year-old Ryder’s first venture into free agency. He had previously signed free-agent deals with the Boston Bruins (2008) and Dallas Stars (2011). The veteran winger came to Jersey from the Montreal Canadiens after a 2013 trade-deadline deal sent him from the Stars to the Habs, where he had started his big-league career.

And another player from Bonavista, defenceman Adam Pardy, got a new team and new deal, hooking on with the Winnipeg Jets. Pardy’s contract with the Jets is for a guaranteed $600,000 over one year, but the 29-year-old did start the season with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, before being recalled by the Jets and eventually earning a regular place in the team’s game-day lineup.

 

8. IceCaps go cold

They had put together a remarkable inaugural campaign in 2011-12, racing all the way to the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final, but the St. John’s IceCaps didn’t find any traction in their follow-up campaign, finishing out of the Calder Cup playoff picture in 2012-13 with a 32-36-8 record and in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The IceCaps never seemed to get the roster boost other teams did with the end of the NHL lockout in mid-January and by that time, hadn’t done enough to build up a record that could help carry them to the end of the season. Such was the team’s predicament that even posting six wins in seven games in late March during the stretch run wasn’t enough to put the team back in contention.

The 2013-14 season has shown more promise, The IceCaps, with a revamped and younger lineup, were 16-12-3 heading into New Year’s Eve and in a playoff spot.

Through it all, one thing has remained constant: To date, over almost two-and-a-half years, St. John’s has officially sold out all 90 of its regular-season home games at Mile One Centre, plus eight more in the 2012 playoffs.

 

9. A small province with a big impact

on the softball diamond

When it comes to Canadian national teams, there is probably no sport that is influenced more by Newfoundlanders than men’s fastpitch softball.

That certainly was evident during this past year, which ended with Softball Canada announcing its senior men’s national team athlete pool for 2014. Of the 40 players named, nine are from Newfoundland, seven who live in the province and two more who live elsewhere.

In other words, a province with less than two percent of the total population of Canada is supplying more than 22 per cent of the long-list roster for the national men’s fastpitch program.

The nine selected include brothers Ryan and Shane Boland of Goulds, Sean Cleary of Harbour Main, brothers Blair and Brad Ezekiel of Harbour Main, Justin Gill of Colliers, and Jason Hill of St. John’s, along with Freshwater, Placentia Bay native Stephen Mullaley, who lives in Toronto, and Sean Whitten, who is originally from Petty Harbour and now resides in Calgary.

Ryan Boland, Brad Ezekiel, Hill, Cleary, Mullaley and Whitten were part of the Canadian team at the 2013 International Softball Federation (ISF) world men’s championship at Auckland, New Zealand In March. Canada went 6-1 in the round-robin, a record that included an extra-inning win over the eventual champion New Zealand Black Sox, but consecutive playoff-round losses to Venezuela and Argentina left the Canadians out of the medal haul.

Boland and Ezekiel led the Canadian team in RBIs at the tourney, each with five,

 

10. Canada Games disappointment

Newfoundland and Labrador’s small population certainly has played a role in this province’s results at Canada Games over the decades. It’s always been considered a significant accomplishment if Newfoundland out-medalled or out-pointed it’s more populous Atlantic cousins Nova Scotia or New Brunswick at the Games or challenged Prairie provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the final standings, but pre-Games expectations have never been over the top.

Still, the outcome for Newfoundland at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., couldn’t be considered anything less than a huge disappointment.

Over the course of two weeks, the province's contingent, consisting of more than 300 athletes, managed just two medal performances, a silver from swimmer Owen Daly in the 50-metre butterfly and Chris Dugas' bronze in the men's Special Olympics 200-metre dash.

By comparison, Newfoundland and Labrador took home six medals from at the 2009 Summer Games in Prince Edward Island.

Calls for more investment in athletic facilities, establishment of more high-performance programs and provisions for more money to allow athletes to travel and compete outside of the province have regularly come at the end of Games, but the showing in Sherbrooke might have brought an even greater sense of urgency to that lobbying.

 

Honourable mentions

• Clark Bishop of St. John’s was a member of the Canadian team which shut out the United States 4-0 in the final of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial men's under-18 hockey tournament in Piestany, Czech Republic. What’s more, the forward for the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screamming Eagles was the top scorer for Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with three goals.

• No Newfoundland athlete was busier internationally than rugby’s Ciaran Hearn, who played for the Canadian senior men’s 15s on no less than 10 occasions in 2013, including games overseas in Japan, Georgia and Portugal, but most importantly in two matchups against the United States that saw Canada qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Hearn capped the 2013 season with the Canadian 15s with a two-try performance in a 52-8 win over Portugal in Lisbon.

The 28-year-old Hearn, who was selected for Rugby Canada's Own the Podium training program in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also played for the Canadian sevens team. So did another Newfoundlander, Patrick Parfrey, who also got into a 15s exhibition game against the Maori New Zealand All Blacks at BMO Field in Toronto. Hearn played in that game, too; it drew a crowd of more than 22,500, setting records for the largest attendance at a rugby match in North America.

Both Hearn and Parfrey train in Langford, B.C., at the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence.

• Labrador City native Dan LaCosta backstopped the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds to a Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) men’s hockey championship in the spring, posting a shutout in the final, and the goalie then restarted his professional career in the fall, signing with the Cardiff Devils of Great Britain’s top league. But LaCosta, a Columbus daft pick who got into a few NHL games with the Blue Jackets in 2007-08 and 2008-09, was forced to retire from the game in early December after a series of concussions.

• There were plenty of impressive soccer scoring performances by Newfoundlanders in 2013.

Tyler Forsey of Holy Cross scored a record 31 goals in 27 Challenge Cup provincial senior men’s games, while Malorie Harris of Holy Cross Kirby Group had 27 goals in 23 Jubilee Trophy provincial women’s contests and was the top striker at nationals, earning the golden boot award.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Dolo of the Feildians U-14 soccer team scored 17 goals in five games for Newfoundland and Labrador at the national U14 championship in Lethbridge, Alta., earning him the tournament’s golden boot award.

Jillian Forsey of Kippens ran to a silver medal at the 2013 national cross-country running championships in Vancouver in December.

Forsey had won the event in 2012, earning a spot on Canada’s team for the North American, Central and Caribbean (NACAC) cross-country championship in Jamaica, where she placed eighth overall in the junior women's bracket. She later ran in the world cross-country championships in Poland, where was 49th.

Forsey, who is attending West Virginia University on an athletics scholarship, will compete again for Canada at the NACAC championships slated for February, this time in Trinidad & Tobago.

• At the 2013 IPC paralympic world swimming championships in Montreal, Katarina Roxon of Kippens helped Canada to a silver medal in the women’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay.

It was one of six events Roxon competed in at the IPC championships. The Memorial University athlete reached three other finals, placing fourth in the 100m breaststroke with a Canadian record, fifth in the 200m individual medley and seventh in the 100m freestyle.

• At the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier national men’s curling championship, Brad Gushue’s rink out of the Bally Haly club in St. John’s made the playoffs with a round-robin record of 8-3. However, Gushue would lose in the 3 vs. 4 page playoff game to eventual Brier champion Brad Jacob of Northern Ontario, and then fell in the bronze-medal game to Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

The Gushue rink did finish as runner-up to Kevin Koe at Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open final, but the big focus for Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold-medallist from Torino, was to get back to the Winter Games. Disappointingly, his team didn’t get to the Canadian Olympic Trials, failing to qualify at the pre-Trials in Kitchener, Ont.

Gushue did have one last shot at getting to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, agreeing to fill the spare’s role for Kevin Martin of Alberta at the Trials, but Martin didn’t get past the semifinal round.

• Picher Myles Vincent of Corner Brook was a member of the Prairie Baseball Academy side which defeated the University of Calgary 6-5 in the Canadian College Baseball Conference (CCBC) championship game.

The lefthander, in his second year at the academy, was the starting pitcher in the final, but didn’t get the decision.

• Fighting in the 64-kilogram division, boxer Brandon Leaman of Kilbride won a gold medal at the inaugural Canadian Golden Gloves championships in Cornwall, Ont., and a silver medal at the Canadian elite (senior national) boxing championships in Regina

Organizations: Boston College, National Hockey League, Skate Canada International Rostelecom Skate Canada Challenge Canada Games IceCaps Western Collegiate Hockey Association Newfoundland Senior Hockey League NLSHL New Jersey Devils Trophy Championship Series Winnipeg Jets NCAA Detroit Red Wings Philadelphia Flyers Dallas Stars Montreal Canadiens American Hockey League International Softball Federation Boston University Meco New York Rangers Boston Bruins Team Atlantic All Blacks BMO Field Canadian Rugby Centre University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds Blue Jackets Holy Cross Kirby Group North American West Virginia University Prairie Baseball Academy University of Calgary

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Alberta, Marystown Newfoundland and Labrador Sochi Quebec February.Between Japan Regina Mississauga Montreal London, Ont. Sochi.Osmond Osaka Saint John Moscow November.However Sherbrooke Ottawa Kitchener United States Ontario Harbour Grace.It Saskatchewan Stratford Scarborough Fredericton Detroit New Jersey Bonavista King George V Park British Columbia Dallas Texas Halifax Red Deer Rosetown Toronto Dundas New Zealand Minneapolis Germany Minnesota North Dakota Portugal Hudson River New York San Jose Placentia Bay Petty Harbour Auckland Venezuela Argentina RBIs Nova Scotia New Brunswick Manitoba Prince Edward Island.Calls Piestany Czech Republic Georgia Rio de Janeiro Brazil North America.Both Hearn Langford Excellence. Great Britain Columbus Lethbridge Vancouver Caribbean Jamaica Poland Trinidad Tobago. Northern Ontario Torino Russia Corner Brook Cornwall

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