The 1971-72 Thunder Bay Twins
|Green Bay Bobcats||32||21||9||2||44|
|Waterloo Black Hawks||32||15||17||0||30|
|Thunder Bay Twins||32||14||17||0||30|
|Marquette Iron Rangers||32||14||16||2||30|
Twins 9 Black Hawks 3 (@ Thunder Bay)
Twins 9 Bobcats 2 (@ Thunder Bay)
NOTE: Thunder Bay opted out and did not compete in the 1972 Allan Cup playdowns
DATING back a half century, the Thunder Bay Twins proved the old adage of: “It’s not how you start, but how you finish;” was very applicable.
It was 50 years ago that the second-year senior side bounced back from a so-so regular season to win the 1972 United States Hockey League championship.
The five-team USHL that campaign consisted of the Twins, Green Bay Bobcats, Waterloo Black Hawks, Marquette Iron Rangers and the Sault (Ontario) Canadians.
While Green Bay finished comfortably in first place in the 32-game regular season with a 21-9-2 record, the other four clubs were neck-and-neck to determine second through fifth.
In the end, Thunder Bay (15-17-0), Waterloo (15-17-0) and Marquette (14-16-2) all finished with 30 points apiece, while the Canadians had 26, in bringing up the rear.
The Twins would get second place, by virtue of more goals scored, while Waterloo secured third by having one more win than Marquette.
In a frenzied finish, the Black Hawks reeled off victories in each of their final three games, to snag themselves a playoff spot.
Contributions during the campaign, saw league-leading scorer Barry Hogan and defenceman Lou Marcon named first team USHL all-stars while coach Lee Fogolin Sr. earned second-team honours behind the bench.
Goaltender Ed Balina saw most of the action between the pipes throughout the season while Dwain Bennett also saw his share of time in net.
With venue availability an issue for each of the U.S. sides, Thunder Bay was chosen as host, at a USHL meeting a month previously, for three-team, two-game postseason format, that was agreed upon by each of the clubs.
This playoff set-up proved pivotal as the squad from the Lakehead were a much different team at home.
One thing the Twins could do, was score goals, as they led the league in tallies with 154.
With the Bobcats missing their leading point-getter, Randy MacArthur, and two more of their better players, due to injury, Thunder Bay took full advantage and pummelled first place Green Bay 9-2 in the final.
They were also boosted by a pair of pickups from the Lakehead University Nor’Westers side for that playoff weekend, as they saw Murray McLeod and George Letowski contribute mightily.
McLeod scored four times in the blow out win, while Letowski had one.
Jack Byerley, with a pair, Hogan and Dave Merritt also converted in the finale for the Twins.
Green Bay goaltender Mike Curran was peppered in defeat, making 45 saves.
Of note, Curran had recently returned from Sapporo, Japan where he was the starting goaltender for Team USA at the 1972 Winter Olympics and backstopped the Americans to a silver medal finish, while posting a crisp .928 save percentage in five starts. He went on from there to play in the WHA with the Minnesota Fighting Saints.
Meanwhile, high-scoring Thunder Bay was also a dominant offensive force in the semifinal the night before as they thumped Waterloo 9-3, much to the delight of the Fort William Gardens faithful.
That match-up saw Twins standout forwards Gary Linquist and Byerley both tally twice while McLeod, Hogan, Jack Owchar, Bill McEwen and Chuck Kelner supplied singles.
After winning the title, Hogan was provided the USHL’s leading-scorer award just prior to Thunder Bay captain Marcon being presented the championship trophy by Mickey Hennessy, who was on hand for the festivities.
From there, the Twins went on to be a USHL powerhouse and continue to produce at an elite level for the remainder of their stay in the league.
However, despite the triumph in 1972, due to financial reasons, Thunder Bay opted not to compete in the Allan Cup playdowns, that eventually saw the Spokane Jets, from Washington State, win the Canadian senior crown for the second time in three seasons.
Among those who were part of the 1971-72 USHL-champion Thunder Bay Twins, during various times of the season, included: Bill Armatage; Ed Balina; Dwain Bennett; Jack Byerley; John Ferguson; Lidio (Lee) Fogolin (head coach); Vic Fortes (trainer); Tony Goegan; Barry Hogan; Chuck Kelner; George Letowski; Gary Linquist; Lou Marcon (captain); Al Martin; Bill McEwan; Murray McLeod; Max Mekilok; Dave Merritt; Bob Milani; Mike (Tinker) Mithrush; Errol Moores; Gary Mork; Lou Nistico Sr. (manager); Bill Owchar; Jack Owcher; Roy Pysikla; Gavin Smith; Cliff Stewart; Dwight Stirrett & Dave Vaillant.