WSHL pulls plug on 2020-21 season

Tyler Waugh

The Hinton Timberwolves were just about to start its playoffs when the Western States Hockey League WSHL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 season due to COVID-19.

News from the league this week means the squad is going to have to wait a little longer than hoped before it’s next run to a postseason shot at the Thorne Cup.

The WSHL announced May 26 that it is going dormant for the 2020-21, citing continued safety and logistical concerns, as well as liability, related to COVID.

“The majority of the variables which impact our sport and participation are still in effect, and will continue to be for an indefinite period of time,” reads a press release from the league.

“Given that the WSHL has over 300 international players on its teams, plays regular season games internationally, has over 500 players living with our gracious host families, has bus travel to games that can exceed 12 hours, and the inability to social distance and wear medical type facemasks in training and/or game situations, the medical reasons alone make it a major safety issue. Additionally, the logistics of operation, in uncertain times, is an unfathomable task for each team to undertake, as well as at a league level. The obvious potential liability for team owners in the face of COVID-19 requires significant consideration.”

The league went on to say that very few ice rinks are open across Canada and the United States and tryouts cannot be held. With that said, teams need to continue to recruit, adding payroll and other expenses without any knowledge 

Currently, across Canada and the United States, very few ice rinks are open, and tryouts cannot be held. The WSHL release stated that, even if they were open, the tryout would be minimized due to the governmental restrictions over crowd control. Nonetheless teams need to continue to recruit, which creates payroll and expenses, without any assured knowledge that the 2020-2021 season will start on-time, or start at all.  

“Medical predictions indicate the likelihood of a resurgence of COVID-19 as the winter months approach. Given the current status of closed borders, it would seem optimistic, at best, to project that the required number of players, for summer tryout camps or fall training camps, would be able to lawfully attend,” reads the release.  

“As important is the very recent announcements by several universities and colleges, even minor pro leagues that likely they will not participate in the 2020-2021 season either which impacts the players advancing to higher levels without recruiting being done at the higher levels.”

The league said that operating in this financial climate could easily result in failure, based on potential losses or inability to generate ticket sales, sponsorship or advertising dollars. The aforementioned revenue streams are crucial to the success and sustainability of WSHL member clubs, and junior hockey clubs around the globe.

The press release issued by the league on behalf of the board of governors went on to say that it will immediately start preparing for a return in the 2021 season.

“This is the most burdensome and painful decision ever made at the WSHL Board of Governors level, however, we strongly feel that continuing operations in the current climate is not safe or conducive to the success of our member players, nor teams,” the release concluded.

Local recreation sites back in business

Photo by Jan Vassbotn, HDGA President
Hintonites looking for outdoor activities while still physically distancing from others can head to the  Hinton Disc Golf Course for some competition.

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Disc golf course, mountain bike park and gun range all open, but operating under COVID guidelines

A handful of recreation sites are welcoming back visitors and members as a result of relaxed government restrictions due to COVID-19.

The Hinton Mountain Bike Park and the Hinton Disc Golf Course opened on May 1 after  municipal COVID-19-related restrictions were lifted and the Hinton Fish and Game Facility is open for all members as of May 14.

Alberta Biz Connect presented reopening guidelines for both outdoor recreation areas and gun ranges on May 11.  

Dawn Paterson, secretary of Hinton Fish and Game, said they are required to have hand sanitizer available for all members at each bench at the gun range.

Restrictions put in place to keep everyone at a safe distance include closing the two middle shooting tables, no access to outhouses, or the indoor archery.

The outdoor archery is currently closed but will open once maintenance is complete.

Paterson said other facilities will remain closed as there isn’t enough volunteer staff to wipe down facilities after each use.

Cash transactions at the range will also be eliminated and membership placards must be displayed in each vehicle.

Only 15 people will be allowed in the gun range at any given time and any more people must wait in their vehicles until others leave.

Each member is limited to one hour of shooting, to allow others their turn.

Paterson said Hinton Fish and Game has been inundated with calls, texts, and emails from people wanting to use the gun range. This has created a concern about managing the number of people at the facility.

“We decided that we have to implement social distancing and only allow 15 people out there at a time,” Paterson said.

Hinton Fish and Game based this decision on AHS’ direction that no more than 15 people should gather in one space.

Once outdoor archery opens, 15 people will be allowed at the outdoor archery range and 15 more will be allowed at the gun range, Paterson added.

This is due to the two sites being on opposite ends of the property.

Staff has put up signage reminding members to social distance and follow the new regulations put in place by Hinton Fish and Game.

Staff as well as surveillance cameras will help monitor the grounds.

Social distancing measures will be easier to implement at the outdoor archery range, because each shooting station is anywhere from 100 to 200 yards apart, said Paterson.

“We are keeping our indoor range closed, it will not open because if we open it we will need staff wiping things down as they come and go. We don’t have the manpower, we’re a non profit organization so we don’t have the financing to hire anybody to do it either,” said Paterson.

The organization has lost most of its revenue sources this summer as well from rentals, bookings, competitions, and events.

“[It’s] a huge impact, we’re going to be counting on getting grants to help us,” Paterson added.

Hinton’s disc golf association (HDGA) has welcomed its fair share of new and old players to the course since May 1.

Chad Scobie enjoying the Hinton disc golf course.
Louis Corbeil Photo

Louis Corbeil, who is on the board of directors and one of the association’s founders, said he’s been on the course a few times already this spring and spoke with some players who were new to the game.

The course opened in 2017 and introduced the community to a game that is simple to learn using an inexpensive disc to play.

The goal of the game is to play each hole from tee off to basket in the fewest strokes possible. 

Corbeil said some people might be staying at home due to the pandemic, but it’s also bringing new people out that are looking for a new sport as other sports are cancelled.

“It’s doing a bit of both, people who are rightfully concerned want to keep distant at all cost, but it’s also bringing families in who are looking for an activity,” Corbeil said.

The course gives people another option to get out and enjoy an activity.

“For those who like to be active, this throws in a bit of competition in there and it’s fun, you try to do your best and it takes your mind off things,” Corbeil said.

The club has made some changes to make it safer under current circumstances.

Since the course is free to use, players don’t need to worry about passing fees back and forth, people use their own equipment, and posters around the course remind players of physical distancing measures.

Players are required to play in groups of four or less and different options are available for those who want to avoid touching the baskets.

Forestry flagging tape is used to flag the nearest tree to each basket, any player that doesn’t want to touch the basket, can hit the three instead.

“We’re open for business and there are ways of playing without having to put your hands on the chains of the basket and put your hands on different things. There are ways to have your hands on your disc and that’s basically it,” Corbeil said.

The parking lot across the road has also been reopened and can be used by users of the disc golf club.

Unfortunately, the HDGA’s first Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) sanctioned tournament was to be June 6, but was cancelled.

All league play was also cancelled until further notice, most likely for the entire year.

For those who like to pick up the speed a little bit, the Hinton Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) opened the bike park on May 1 as well. 

With extra time on everyone’s hands, HMBA has seen some positive impacts in increased trail maintenance.

“People are going out on their own this year, raking trees, cleaning ditches, taking down trees, because people have more time now,” said Casey MacKay, HMBA secretary.

The trails are looking much better than they have in the past, she added.

On top of people going out on their own to volunteer, HMBA has also seen more trail users this year already.

While social distancing recommendations are hard to enforce on the trails, HMBA sent out messaging via email and social media about what’s expected of their users.

The 15 person limit on gatherings has affected HMBA’s trail maintenance nights, when a group of volunteers gather to maintain trails.

The first maintenance night was this week and the association typically organizes a few each spring and fall. Due to the gathering restrictions, the usual Monday and Wednesday group rides, as well as Sprockids have been cancelled this season. The loss of Sprockids, which brings in around 90 kids every spring, also has effects on HMBA’s memberships. A membership is necessary to join Sprockids, and without the program the association could see a decline.

“We’re really concerned about our members because that helps get us grants, it helps fund new trails and maintain the old trails,” MacKay said.

“We just really want to encourage everybody to get their memberships, even for people that are walking on our trails and stuff it would be nice if they would help support us because we do so much work to maintain it.”

No financial losses have been accounted for but the association isn’t asking for many donations this year as they know local companies are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual run raises funds for local cancer clinic

Former Olympic gold medalist Jamie Salé is on board as spokesperson for the Albertans helping Albertas Virtual 5k.

Tyler Waugh

Participants have until May 31 to hit the trails, or the treadmill, for Alberta fundraiser

The Hinton Community Cancer Clinic is one of more than a dozen locations across the province set to benefit from a 5 km virtual run fundraiser.

The event, called the Albertans Helping Albertans Virtual 5k and organized by the Alberta Cancer Foundation, offers locals the opportunity to complete a five kilometre run – either via trail, track or on their own home treadmill through the month of May.

“You can run anytime this month, and anywhere you like. We know this is a time when people are looking for something to do, a reason to get out and run, and supporting this cause might do exactly that,” said Melanie Dekker, director of community relations for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Participants can choose where their fundraising is directed, so locals can raise funds for the Hinton Community Cancer Centre, which saw an estimated 100 patients last year for a combined 1,000 visits. Dekker said that 53 Albertans are diagnosed with cancer each day and that an estimated 20,000 Albertans will be diagnosed this year.

Money raised will help to enhance patient needs and experiences with items such as comfortable treatment chairs, warming blankets and upgraded waiting rooms.

“During this time of the pandemic staff at the centres are also hearing from Albertans who are facing emergency financial needs, for items such as paying for gas to treatments, buying groceries,  and paying essential bills. Funds raised will help support Albertans to ensure they do not need to decide between treatment and day to day expenses,” said Dekker.

She added that the event is a fun and safe way to practice social distancing while supporting fellow Albertans facing cancer. It is open to everyone, whether they are an avid runner whose previous events have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, a beginner debuting your running career, or an Albertan wanting to walk to make a positive difference in your community.

The virtual format was something in development prior to COVID-19 as the Foundation was looking for opportunities to use technology for some broader initiatives.

“We are a provincial organization that has an impact across Alberta, so we were already exploring the idea of a virtual run,” Dekker said, adding that the timing was right.

Fundraising started May 1 and runs through to May 31. Registration is open and free for individuals under 18 years old, and $20 for all other participants. The first 300 people who register and complete their run or walk will receive a medal, and the first 300 people to raise $500 by April 30 will receive a commemorative race T-shirt. 

“People have gotten creative with the fundraising beyond the initial five kilometers. Some have run five kilometres every day and collected pledges for each day they do that, or for every kilometre beyond the original five,” said Dekker.

There will also be fun prizing such as fastest times, youngest runner and oldest runner. If participants would like to be considered for fastest time they can be submitted via a photo until May 31. The photos can be a picture of your smart watch (use any app which records distance and time) or a photo of your treadmill at home. Times can be submitted to

Dekker said that, because it’s a first-year virtual event, the biggest learning curve is about getting the message out there. The Foundation has former Olympic medalist, figure skater Jamie Salé.

“We were really lucky to have her come on board. She’s a great advocate,” said Dekker.

Salé says in a video on the event website that her family has suffered several losses because of cancer.

“So I personally want to do my part to help and I know you do too,” she said.

“What a great concept while we are social distancing, right? We can get some exercise while we help support Albertans with cancer.”

Those looking to learn more or register for the event can visit

Hinton Golf Club opening sooner than expected on May 9

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Alberta’s relaunch strategy included the reopening of golf courses sooner than the Hinton Golf Club expected, but on May 9 the club is welcoming back local golfers.

Staff were initially preparing for a June 1 start date, but managed to get the course prepped to open at least nine holes.

The club was set to present their budget during the May 5 regular council meeting, which was pushed back due to changes in their budget as they are now opening the course sooner than expected.

“We’re really trying to open up 18 holes. We do have some cart path issues that we have to solve but I’m pretty sure we’ll allow 18 holes of golf for walking,” said Kyle Crawford, director of the Hinton Golf Club.

Those who require a power cart may be limited to just nine holes to begin with. 

Under the current provincial COVID-19 restrictions, nobody will be allowed to enter the building other than one person at a time for the restrooms. This means golfers must pre-pay for their rounds via the website or calling in with a credit card.

Players can also purchase driving range buckets online for the driving range, which opened on May 6.

The club is in the process of redesigning the website and POS system for booking tee times and paying for green fees and memberships. Golfers are asked to show up no more than 15 minutes before their tee time.

Once they arrive, a staff member will be outside to direct them to use one cart per person, unless they are from the same household, and send them off to the first tee immediately.

“It is going to be a little rough from May 9 to the 14th but I think the people just want to be golfing. They understand that these guidelines are put in by the government and I think everybody will follow it,” Crawford said.

Once golfers are done their round, they can drop off their clubs at their vehicles before dropping the cart and anything else they used off in a designated sanitizing station to be sanitized for the next player.

Eighteen social distancing signs on the course, two on the driving range, and nine to remind players not to pick up any tees or anything will be displayed.

There will be no rakes in the bunkers, sleeves on the flags will say do not touch, and a cup system will be installed with a false bottom that allows golfers to get the ball out of the hole with their putter.

If the government moves into stage one of their relaunch strategy on May 14 as expected, the club will be able to open its pro shop to a limited number of people and the restaurant to half capacity.

In the meantime, grab and go food and beverage options will be available seven days per week while beverage cart services will be available Fridays through Sundays.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook so people are excited to golf and we’re going to do everything we can to make it safe for them and hopefully we’ll get more people to come out just based on word of mouth that we are taking every precaution that we can to make everyone safe,” said Crawford.

HGC outlook remains positive, despite COVID-19

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Despite current regulations that are keeping eager golfers home, the new director of the Hinton Golf Club is feeling positive and ready to take on the challenge.

While there has been no official announcement about when golf courses in Alberta may be allowed to open to the public, Kyle Crawford is aiming to have the grounds prepped for an opening date of June 1. 

Crawford said that groups like the Alberta Golf, Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) of Canada and PGA Alberta are trying to work with the government to get golf deemed an essential recreation sport.

Bruce McAllister, spokesperson of Alberta Golf, said they are confident that the Alberta government will be announcing a relaunch of the economy this week and that golf will be a part of the strategy.

“We know we can safely social distance and play golf. We have developed the most thorough and thoughtful new protocol for golf courses to follow when they open. Golf is great for your physical and mental health, and during this COVID-19 Pandemic, we are all recognizing the importance of our mental health. We are excited to be part of the solution and are hopeful that AB golf courses, like those in BC and the USA, will be open soon,” said McAllister.

If they open, Crawford said the Hinton Golf Club would operate under strict guidelines to ensure golfers can maintain their distance from each other and limit their points of contact.

“I am a true believer that golf really is one of the only sports where we can actually follow the guidelines to a tee, versus some other recreational sports like at a pool or skating,” Crawford said.

Golf courses in BC will be open on May 1, while Saskatchewan is following close behind with an opening date of May 15.

“We’re planning to be safe. We’re aiming for a June 1 start on the assumption that things are going to get better here in a few weeks and we’re going to be able to rock and roll,” Crawford said.

Golf courses in Alberta typically open anywhere in the month of April depending on the weather. Even without a pandemic this year, the Hinton course would have had a later start date due to the snow sticking around longer this spring.

“I guess if you’re going to have a pandemic, it might as well be in the year that you were going to open late anyway,” Crawford commented.

Work on the grounds hadn’t started yet on April 24 because crews were waiting for conditions to dry up first. Even if the course won’t be allowed to open all summer, Crawford said grounds staff will still have minimum maintenance to protect the asset and ensure it is in good shape for the 2021 season.

In early March, the club hired all the necessary staff to operate the course throughout the summer, but they are currently on hold.

While the club won’t be able to offer any sit-down food service, Crawford said there will still be a food and beverage component in the form of a seven-day beverage cart service or a halfway house that sells alcohol and food.

Staff is setting up an online prepay system, allowing customers to pay for their tee time ahead of time to avoid the exchange of cash or close contact to the staff member in the Pro Shop. 

Unless golfers are from the same household, they must each take a separate power cart to ensure social distancing, Crawford explained as part of the new rules. Only every other stall at the driving range will be set up for use to increase spacing.

Items like baskets, pull carts, and power carts will be disinfected after every use. 

“We have to make sure what we’re doing is still following the guidelines, we’re doing it in the most efficient manner and that’s solely to create as much profit and revenue as possible by the end of the year,” Crawford said.

The pandemic would have caused a major setback but Crawford is positive that with some major changes and the support of the community that the Hinton Golf Club will pull through.

Since Crawford started working at the club in mid-February, he has put everything into making sure the golf course would be successful this year. Big changes included running the restaurant themselves, instead of through a contractor.

“One of the biggest things that I see why Hinton golf club has struggled in the last couple of years is that they weren’t catering to the people of Hinton,” he added.

He stated that the course was attempting to cater to tourists while they struggled through the past several years. Crawford worked to restructure the rates, allowing residents of Hinton to play the course and not feel like it’s overpriced.

All the rates have dropped and different golf packages will be introduced this year, though memberships will remain the same to stay in line with members who already paid at the end of 2019.

Crawford added that memberships are geared towards 40 rounds, but said that staff will be more involved in helping customers pick a membership package that works for them.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to add value to the customer. And if that customer doesn’t come to our property and feel like they got a value for playing, then we failed,” Crawford said

Before coming to Hinton, Crawford, worked for the Radium Golf Group, which was in a similar financial situation as Hinton’s Golf Club, he said. Taking what he has learned from 20 years in the golf business, he plans to create a friendlier environment at the Hinton Golf Club, with more engaged staff and an added level of service.

“I started here on Feb. 17 and I worked for 38 straight days just on the sole purpose that if this golf course fails, I fail, and I don’t like failing. I will do whatever I have to do in order to make this golf course successful,” Crawford said.

He added that while people may be concerned that the club won’t survive, he wants to assure residents that the club isn’t going anywhere despite the circumstances.

“We’re going to strive to make this golf course very special for the people of Hinton,” he said.

Organized sports shelved/delayed due to COVID

File Photo
Hinton Minor Baseball is among the handful of sports and recrational organizations that have either cancelled the 2020 season, or have acknowledged that the season may ultimately be cancelled down the road.

Tyler Waugh

With the sun out and the temperature rising, this is the time in Hinton when thoughts usually turn to a new sports season.

But 2020 will likely best become known as the year where the coaches’ whistles fell silent on the diamonds, gridirons, pitches and pools across Hinton.

Minor sports associations have over the past week or so been announcing that their spring and summer seasons will not move forward due to COVID.

The Hinton Wolfpak six-man football team is usually gearing up to begin its spring camp and jamboree season – one that has seen significant growth in the past few years and one that helps develop players for the fall regular season squad. But Football Alberta has shut down all activity until further notice.

“Yes, it is disappointing considering the momentum we had built up from the past season and opportunities lost to our four graduating players as far as being (unable) to compete in the all-star game,” said longtime head coach Chris Johnstone.

“No insurance will be covered by Football Alberta so our spring camp scheduled for May 4 is on hold. I haven’t talked to John Holuk, our new president, about a game plan as we don’t know how long these social isolation orders will be in place.”

The Hinton Water Devils have also cancelled its 2020 season, which usually begins in May and runs through until provincials in August.

Jenny Sigsworth, president of the Hinton Water Devils, said the decision to cancel the season was made by its sanctioning body, the Alberta Summer Swim Association.

“It wasn’t’ up to us. It’s tough but it was expected,” she said, adding that the Water Devils had a head coach and assistants in place and ready for the season, and also a strong board of directors and enthusiastic fundraisers.

“It’s disappointing, we had things in place for a really great year, hopefully we can keep it in place for next year.”

Hinton Minor Soccer, which has the largest annual registration numbers for the spring/summer season, announced in an April 22 post that it is cancelling the 2020 season.

“Hinton Minor Soccer is very disappointed to report that the 2020 outdoor soccer season has been cancelled due to COVID-19 and social distancing protocols in place,” said soccer executive Suzanne McDonald in a post on the Hinton Soccer Moms and Dads page on Facebook.

The Hinton Mountain Bike Association has also announced that the spring session of its popular Sprockids youth program is cancelled with the hopes to resume in the fall of 2020.

One sports organization that is still holding out some hope for a season is Hinton Minor Baseball. Its sanctioning body, Baseball Alberta, has suspended all activity until June 1, with further direction expected closer to that date.

Jocelyn Puchailo of Hinton Minor Baseball said the other factor will be whether there is any change to the Town of Hinton’s closures that includes the ball diamonds.

“Since we are already being postponed to June 1, which is already more than half into our season, we will discuss if there’s the option to go into the summer (July and possibly August),” Puchailo told The Voice via Facebook on April 22.

“At this time we are prepared that we may not have a 2020 season, which is devastating for the association and the children of Hinton.”

Jamahl Eakett joins Aeros as an assistant coach

Jamahl Eakett, seen here playing for the Hinton Timberwolves during the 2019 season, has been announced as the new assistant coach and recruiter for the Edson Aeros.
File Photo

Tyler Waugh

Timberwolves forward Jamahl Eakett ended his playing career as the Western States Hockey League leading scorer in the COVID-19 shortened 2019 regular season.

Acquired by the Hinton Timberwolves prior to the 2019-2020 season, he notched 60 goals and 63 assists for 123 points in just 40 games.

With his playing career over, the WSHL’s second all-time leading scorer is making the move behind the bench, and down the road.

Eakett was announced this past week as the new assistant coach and recruiter for the Edson Aeros.

“We’re obviously very excited to have someone of Jamahls’s offensive prowness join our team. We are hoping he can translate that into coaching with the mentorship of Coach Lynch. We have every confidence that it will happen,” said Aeros owner Axel Axmann in a written statement, indicating Eakett had reached out to them.

Despite the shortened season that saw him vault into second place in the WSHL all-time goal scoring list and finished his career with 164 goals and 183 assists.

“I want to start coaching and get into it that way and I believe your program was the best one to jump into because of the experience in coaching … I can’t wait to get started!” Eakett was quoted in an April 7 posting on the Aeros website.

The WSHL season was cancelled on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Ron White, in a statement announcing the season cancellation on the league website, said the WSHL had never found itself in this position in 26 years of existence.

The Hinton Timberwolves were in second place in the Provincial Division, the second year in a row that the Hinton franchise has finished behind the Edson Aeros.

With that said, a number of late season moves had Hinton hoping to earn a spot in the league championship tournament – the Thorne Cup.

The tournament would have been played March 31 – April 4 in Colorado.

Cougars finish season strong on home course

Masha Scheele Photo
Competitors race downhill during the mass start event held March 7 as part of the Calforex Cup weekend hosted at the Hinton Nordic Centre.

Tyler Waugh

Sara Johnston and Mattias Vriend led the way with a double gold performance March 6 -7 as the Hinton Cougars hosted a competitive field of biathletes for hte final Calforex Cup race of the season at the Hinton Nordic Centre.

Johnston (Dev. 1 Girls) and Vriend (Air II Boys) kicked off their weekend with a gold medal in the mass start event and then matched that finish the next day in the sprint.

Alexandre Vriend (Air I Boys) earned double bronze on the weekend, while Thomas Hengel (Dev. II Boys) earned a silver in the mass start, Simon Ruszkowski (Air II Boys) brought home bronze, Ryan Tew (Masters Men) earned silver and Jeannot Desaulnier (Masters Men) rounded out a great mass start day for the home team with a bronze of his own.

“It was a great day for all our racers – some great performances in the mass start regardless of whether they were podium finishes,” said coach Robin Hengel.

“All the work through the year definitely paid off. We definitely had the home course advantage in Hinton. The loops are competitors ski here are some of the toughest on the circuit.”

Chad Scobie finished fourth in the Dev. I Boys division mass start, Ronan Tew finished eighth in the Senior Boys division for the mass start and Cooper Johnston finished ninth in the Dev. I Boys division.

“Some of the competitors we were up against were competing at the North American circuit level and some were even going for nationals. This was a strong field,” Hengel said of the estimated 100 competitors that registered for the weekend.

Hengel and Ruszkowski came close the podium again the next day during the sprint, with each of them earning fourth place finishes.

Desaulnier finished fifth in his division, while Ryan Tew finished right behind in sixth.

Scobie finished eighth on Sunday, while Ronan Tew finished 11th, and Cooper Johnston and Amelie Burkinshaw both finished 13th.

“We saw a lot of growth from the kids this year. They just about all moved up an age group and they needed to build confidence as much as anything else. I think you saw that confidence build with the results of the last three weeks of the season starting with AWG (Alberta Winter Games) and Edmonton and then Hinton,” said Hengel, adding that he sees potential for bigger and better results next season.

“We are going to set up for success in our dry land preparation. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare in the snow before the competitions begin,” said Hengel.

The coach also commended the organizing committee and the volunteers for the job they did hosting, saying it was an honour for the athletes to compete at home.

“The committee was on top of everything and the conditions were great. Everything they could control they did, and you can’t ask for anything more,” said Hengel.

Trail development continues for Bighorn Ridge

Masha Scheele

Most of Hinton’s mountain bike trail users told the Hinton Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) they are looking for intermediate to advanced downhill trails.

The feedback was received during a community engagement session held Feb. 23 to get a sense of what riders want most out of the trail system and the Bighorn Ridge Project.

“Developing these trails would help us meet the needs of our local riders and bring in riders from outside of town,” said Casey MacKay, HMBA secretary, adding that Hinton has a good network of cross country and beginner trails in the bike park.

The HMBA, in partnership with West Fraser, are in the initial stages of creating a master trail plan for the Bighorn Ridge south of town and have hired a consultant, McElhanney, to complete the master plan.  Matt Hadley, a trail technologist with McElhanney, also attended the community session with his wife. Hadley works on the Trails, Tourism, Parks and Recreation team with McElhanney, which is based in Canmore. 

“We proceeded to hire him after getting many very positive references from other communities in Alberta and BC,” she said.

Hoots Inc. completed the five km downhill section last fall, an upgrade of the previous historic trail. 

“Jay Hoots worked to make the trail sustainable, less susceptible to water damage and fixed up multiple water crossings,” MacKay said.

Hoots is currently working on a mellow grade trail intended for uphill, non-motorized travel intended to be completed within the next year.

West Fraser has funded the two current trails and HMBA is working hard to apply for grants and donations to get more trails on the mountain, MacKay explained.

“Having this master plan completed will improve our chances of being successful with more grants,” she said.

HMBA envisions a trail network on the Big Horn with various trails for all ages and skill levels, to be enjoyed by both locals and tourists. 

T’Wolves draw Bombers to open playoffs

Tyler Waugh Photo

Tyler Waugh

Hinton will go into its first-round match up against the Barrhead Bombers on a one-game losing skid after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Bombers to close out the regular season schedule March 7.

The loss marked the first time Barrhead beat Hinton this season, and comes on the heels of some progressively closer games leading into the post season.

Hinton fell behind 2-0 in the first period before a pair of Talon Thomas goals in the opening minutes of the second frame pull the Timberwolves even at 2-2. Brendan Auger scored with 17.2 seconds left in the period to give Hinton a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.

Jamahl Eakett scored a shorthanded marker with 12:07 left in the game to pull Hinton ahead again at 4-3, but Yoshtin Gunner got the equalizer for Barrhead with only 3:15 remaining to force overtime and then Oleksander Davydenko completed the home team comeback with the OT winner with 35 seconds remaining.

Max Sturko and Eakett had a pair of assists in the loss while Thien Gamble had one of his own. Adam Robertson made 42 stops in net.

Hinton finished second in the Provincial Division with a record of  33-11-1-2 and draw third-place Barrhead (12-32-2-1) in the first round of league playoffs starting this coming weekend.

Meanwhile, the Edson Aeros (44-3-0-0) finished first and draw the Cold Lake Hornets (9-35-2) in the first round.

Cold Lake gave the Timberwolves a bit of a scare March 5 in the last regular season home game for Hinton, chasing starting goalie Robertson from the game and building a 7-3 lead late in the second period. 

Logan Arsenault scored with 6:44 left in the second period, to queue the comeback. Jakob Arsenault, with his second of the game, Brendan Auger and Trent Keewatin also scored to pull Hinton even at 7-7. 

The Timberwolves appeared to catch a break on the winning goal by Max Sturko with 7:27 remaining as the whistle appeared to blow just before the puck rolled out from under Bombers goalie Riley Tucker and across the line.

Jamahl Eakett got the insurance marker into an empty net with 50 seconds remaining to cap off a two-goal, four-point game. Gamble also scored for Hinton, while Alim Darmenov had four helpers and Dimitri Buttazzoni, Bryant Joeph and Artur Chirkov had two assists each.

Hinton outshot Barrhead 60-29. Robertson made 15 stops for Hinton before being pulled and Kolter Pawlick made seven stops in relief.

Hinton hosts Barrhead for the best two of three playoff series with Game 1 on March 13 at 8 pm. Game 2 is scheduled for March 14 at 7:30 pm and, if necessary, Game 3 will go on March 15 at 2 pm.

The March 7 loss to Barrhead was the only blemish in an otherwise perfect head to head record for Hinton, that included a preseason win and 10-straight regular season wins. Hinton has outscored Barrhead 60-23 in the regular season series, but the past two games have been one-goal decisions.

The winner of this series will play the winner of the Edson-Cold Lake series for a chance to represent the Provincial Divison at the Western States Hockey League championship tournament, The Thorne Cup, this April in Greeley, Colorado. The four divisional winners join the host squad, the Northern Colorado Eagles, as well as a wild card entry in competition for the Cup.