10 Central Alberta sports stories that grabbed headlines in 2016

Hosts Red Deer Rebels may have dropped the opening game of the tournament 6-2 to the London Knights but the underdogs turned the tables to make the event memorable for fans.

The Rebels game back with a surprise win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5-2 in their second game, setting up a WHL playoff rematch with Brandon.

Evan Polei scored at 3:50 of overtime against the Wheat Kings on May 25 to push the Rebels into the tournament semifinal against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Rebels Memorial Cup hopes were dashed on May 27 when they lost 3-1 in a rematch with the Huskies.

2. Bentley Generals win Allan Cup

The Bentley Generals downed the defending Allan Cup champion South East Prairie Thunder to win the Senior Men’s AAA hockey national title in overtime on April 16 in Steinbach, Man.

Carter Rigby scored the OT winner 15 minutes into the extra frame to give the generals the 4-3 win.

Rigby had two goals in the final, and Generals goalie Thomas Heemskerk stopped 44 shots in the win.

The 2016 national title was the third for the Generals since 2009.

3. Kings Men’s Volleyball win national title

The Red Deer College Kings Men’s Volleyball team won their second national title in the past three years in March at Douglas College, winning all three matches on the way to gold.

The Kings bested the Titans De Limoilou in the final in straight sets, 25-15, 25-15, 27-25 for the banner victory.

Luke Brisbane was named tournament MVP and Riley Friesen was the player of the game for the Kings in the gold medal win.

They also swept three straight matches in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association (ACAC) Men’s Volleyball Championship to punch their ticket to nationals.

4. Kelsie Caine wins ringette gold at worlds

Red Deer’s Kelsie Caine became a World Junior ringette champion in January of 2016, when her Canadian team beat host Finland 10-9 in overtime in a best-of-three series. Caine earned a spot for the 2016 junior worlds at a tryout camp in the spring of 2015 with 39 other hopefuls.

5. Local cowboys win gold at National Finals Rodeo

Canadians were front and centre in Las Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo, which included Ponoka’s Levi Simpson and Jake Vold, along with Big Valley’s Zeke Thurston.

Simpson and heeler Jeremy Buhler were the first all-Canadian team to make the NFR, but made an even bigger splash by claiming the world title.

Thurston, 22, rode nine of 10 horses in saddle bronc and finished with a 86-point ride Saturday to claim the gold buckle.

Vold finished second in bareback riding.

6. Cougars win historical championship

For the first time in 22 years, the winner of the Alberta High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) 4A badminton championship was not from Edmonton or Calgary.

The Notre Dame High School Cougars took 17 players to the championships in Edmonton last May.

Ben LeBlanc was one of the top players for the Cougars, winning silver in the junior boys age group. Jenna Hollman and Shea Bilodeau, both Grade 10 students, won gold in junior girls A doubles, along with Rene Grise winning gold in singles B.

7. Lindsey Thurber Volleyball teams take silver at provincials

Both Raiders volleyball squads nabbed silver at the Alberta High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) 4A Provincials in their home gym on Nov. 26.

The senior girls team went undefeated during round robin play, before beating Notre Dame in the quarter final and knocking off William Aberhart High School in the semis.

That set up a showdown with the Jasper Park High School Rebels, who managed to sweep the Raiders in the final.

The senior boys finished third in pool play and also beat Notre Dame before taking down Edmonton Christian to advance to the final. The Raiders went on to lose in the gold medal game against E.P. Scarlett High School Lancers.

8. Team Alberta wins bronze in Red Deer

Outfielder/pitcher Kelsey Lalor and Hayley Lalor were part of the Team Alberta bronze-medal winning team at the Baseball Canada Senior Women’s Invitational in Red Deer.

Both Kelsey and Hayley had a run and a hit in the 8-5 win over Quebec to clinch the medal. Hayley also contributed an RBI.

B.C. beat Ontario 9-8 in the gold medal final at Great Chief Park.

Following the tournament, Kelsey was selected to represent Canada in Gijang, South Korea at the Women’s World Cup of Baseball.

9. Thompson finishes second in USF2000 Championship

Red Deer’s Parker Thompson had himself quite the season on the USF2000 Championship Tour, with four wins, three polls and a second place overall finish on the season. It was only his second season on the circuit.

Thompson scored his first career victory in April in Birmingham, Alabama and followed that up with a win the next day to sweep the weekend.

Thompson’s final win of the year game on Canadian soil was at the Toronto Indy.

10. Chandler McDowell strong season on the links

Seventeen-year-old golfer Chandler McDowell, of Springbrook, was the 2016 Alberta Juvenile Boys champion. He finished second in both the MJT International Players Championship and the 2016 CN Future Links Western Championship.

He also grabbed a third place finish in the 2016 PGA of Alberta Junior Masters.

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