|TBSHL SEASON STANDINGS|
|Port Arthur Bearcats||13||11||2||0||22|
|Fort William Beavers||13||2||11||0||4|
Bearcats win best-of-seven final 4-0
ALLAN CUP WESTERN PLAYDOWNS
Quarter-final (Manitoba-Thunder Bay Sr. Final)
Port Arthur vs. Warroad Lakers
Game 1: Bearcats 6 Lakers 1 (@ Fort William)
Game 2: Bearcats 8 Lakers 3 (@ Fort William)
Game 3: Bearcats 9 Lakers 3 (@ Selkirk, Man.)
Port Arthur wins best-of-five series 3-0
Port Arthur vs. Regina Caps
Game 1: Bearcats 9 Caps 2 (@ Fort William)
Game 2: Bearcats 17 Caps 3 (@ Fort William)
Game 3: Caps 5 Bearcats 4 (@ Regina)
Game 4: Bearcats 6 Caps 2 (@ Regina)
Patton Cup Western Canadian Final
Port Arthur vs. Calgary Stampeders
Game 1: Bearcats 4 Stampeders 1 (@ Fort William)
Game 2: Stampeders 6 Bearcats 1 (@ Fort William)
Game 3: Stampeders 3 Bearcats 1 (@ Calgary)
Game 4: Stampeders 7 Bearcats 1 (@ Calgary)
Calgary wins best-of-five series 3-1
April 10, 1969: Bearcats – Calgary Stampeders Patton Cup preview
NOTE: Calgary went on to get swept by the Galt (Cambridge) Hornets in four straight, in the Allan Cup final.
ONE of the most successful organizations in the storied history of Canadian senior hockey is that of the Port Arthur Bearcats.
For close to five decades, the club was a model of consistency, on the ice, for most of the 50-plus seasons they competed.
From serving as the Port Arthur Seniors in the early days, also known as the Ports, to eventually morphing into the Bearcats, or Tricolours, as they were often dubbed to coincide with their white, red, and green jerseys, the squad was widely renowned for decades.
Four Allan Cup titles, seven appearances in the national final, many western Canada trophies, along with a multitude of Thunder Bay Senior Hockey League crowns, and even an Ahearne Cup European win to their credit, the club was the envy of many hockey aficionados from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Their final realistic run at an Allan Cup came in the spring of 1969, mere months before Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated to become Thunder Bay on New Year’s Day, 1970.
Built by manager Ray Floyd and guided by long-time coach Joe Nigro, who stood behind the bench of teams in the Lakehead for many years, his group of Bearcats in 1968-69 boasted a line-up of veteran presence, along with youthful exuberance.
Led by TBSHL leading scorer Kenny Harris, Port Arthur boasted plenty of other offensive talent up front, including the likes of Rick Yeo; Bob Darcis; Barry Hogan; Gary Mork; Teuvo Aapro; Mike (Tinker) Mithrush; Gary Linquist; Murray Marcino and Bob Milani.
Defensively they were equally as solid on the back-end, led by experienced D-man and former NHLer Benny Woit.
Add in Canadian Olympian Henry (Hank) Avervall; Steve Ochrymowicz; Jack Owchar; Bill McCracken and Dave Vibert, the Ports were solid on defence as well and were categorized as a defensive corps that liked to lay the body.
They also sported a quality tandem in net with goalkeepers Bob Kilgour and Dennis Gibson.
Port Arthur went on to dominate the rival Fort William Beavers throughout the course of the regular season, going 11-2 versus their crosstown foes.
The league final proved to be no contest either with the north side squad sweeping the Beavers in four straight.
Adding to their roster following their triumph over Fort William, the Bearcats picked up a trio of skilled players from the Beavers to aid in their quest along the Allan Cup trail in high-scoring forwards Max Mekilok and Bill (Red) Johansen, along with rock-solid defenceman Lou Marcon.
Their initial test there came against the Warroad Lakers, from Minnesota.
Skating at the Fort William Gardens to commence a best-of-five affair, Port Arthur was all business, swamping the Lakers 6-1 in the opener.
Building on that, the Bearcats picked up a hat trick from Yeo, along with singles courtesy of Mekilok, Johansen, Marcino, Owchar and Woit, to take Game 2 handily, by an 8-3 count.
Heading to Manitoba to complete the match-up, it was the ‘Yeo Show’ once more as he notched his second-straight hat trick as part of a 9-3 drubbing over Warroad to secure the series in the minimum.
Marcino chipped in with a pair of tallies in the contest while Mork, Mekilok, Johansen and Marcon supplied the other goals.
Unfortunately, Port Arthur was dealt a significant blow leading up to their next match-up, which was against the Regina Caps.
In practice at home, star player Harris was accidently clipped up high during a drill, which eventually caused the loss of his sight in one eye, thus ending his playing career.
It was explained by manager Floyd as purely unfortunate: “It was just a normal play. Harris had the puck and one of the guys was trying to lift his stick to claim possession. His stick missed Harris’ and came up and caught him in the eye.”
Despite the devastating loss, the motivated Bearcats took it out on Regina.
Playing hard for their wounded teammate, they crushed the Caps 9-2 in a convincing victory to start things off.
Mork and Mekilok paced the offensive attack with two goals apiece, while seeing Johansen, Hogan, Marcino, Darcis and Linquist also found the back of the net.
Things got even better for Port Arthur as they went on to wallop Regina 17-3 in Game 2 at the Gardens.
In the romp, Yeo maintained his high-scoring pace with another three-tally performance.
Meanwhile Marcino, Aapro, Mork and Johansen added to the romp with a pair of markers each.
Adding to the onslaught were Linquist, Akervall, Darcis, Mekilok, Owchar and Hogan, in what was the club’s 17th consecutive win.
Heading to the Saskatchewan capital, whether it was the travel or a bout of overconfidence, the Caps surprised the Cats with a late game-winner to cut into their deficit in a 5-4 decision.
Johansen, Marcino, Mork and Yeo were the Port Arthur marksmen in the loss that saw netminder Gibson face 32 shots against in defeat.
Regrouping, the Lakehead title holders punched their ticket to the Patton Cup final by sidelining Regina 6-2 and take the best-of-five set 3-1.
Hogan was the hero in that one as he scored three times and assisted on another.
Also connecting in the victory were Mithrush, Darcis and Mekilok.
Advancing to the western final against the Calgary Stampeders, the Bearcats looked to move on and play for a fifth Allan Cup.
Things started well at the Gardens as they clipped Calgary 4-1 in front of nearly 4,400 fans.
Pacing them was Marcino, who provided a hat trick, following a series-opening marker from Aapro, 13 minutes into the proceedings.
Riding an 18-game winning streak at home in Game 2, the Stampeders put an abrupt end to that by breaking open a tie contest with four unanswered second period goals as part of 6-2 decision.
Aapro and Johansen did strike for Port Arthur, but replacement goalkeeper Don Wallis stood tall making 28 saves, including thwarting a number of Bearcats breakaways in the final 40 minutes, to get the win.
Needing a victory to keep their campaign alive, Owchar opened the scoring in Game 4.
However, even with some solid saves from Kilgour, a 40-shot Calgary barrage, that featured four strikes in the middle stanza and three more in the final frame put the finishing touches on a 7-1 outcome to give the western side the Patton Cup and the chance to compete for a national championship.
Heading to southern Ontario for the Allan Cup final, the Galt (Cambridge) Hornets proved to have plenty of sting as they corralled the Stampeders in a four-game sweep to win it all.
Even with a tough ending to an extraordinary run of senior hockey success, the Port Arthur Bearcats can still boast an overall mark that will be hard-pressed to be matched – anywhere.