Counting down the best events of 2017

Lucas Punkari

As ever, it was another exciting year in the sports world, with a ton of classic games along the way.

That’s especially true here in the Battlefords, with the Battlefords North Stars winning their first Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League title since 2000, the North Battleford Vikings football team capturing their first provincial crown in over two decades, the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling’s Meridian Canadian Open being one of the best events held in the history of the tour, Andrew Albers turning in strong performances with the Seattle Mariners and Colby Cave making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins among the many highlights.

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For the second year in a row, I’ll be sharing with you my 10 favourite sporting events from the past 12 months, which proved to be a bit more of a difficult task than I expected when it came to ranking them.

10. North Battleford Vikings vs. Tommy Douglas Tigers

While my holiday plans in November caused me to miss out on the Vikings massive provincial title triumph on home field against the Yorkton Raiders, their first Saskatoon 3A city championship win a week earlier was just as memorable.

With the field covered in snow and field position a premium, the Vikings came up with a number of big plays on offence and forced four turnovers to pick up a 26-15 win over the Tigers.

9. Eagle Nationals

Kyle Larson had his best season to date in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series in 2017, but for me his most impressive performance came in June when he ran a World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in Nebraska.

Racing in a car that he had never sat in before and one that no one came close to winning in all season, Larson came from sixth on the grid in the 30-lap affair to pass Daryn Pittman on the final circuit to claim the checkered flag.

8. Kevin Koe vs. Mike McEwen

In what was probably one of the best curling games I’ve ever seen, two of the top rinks in Canada matched each other shot for shot in Ottawa for a spot at the Winter Olympics next month in South Korea.

With a clutch draw to the button, Koe earned the spot on Team Canada and will be joined by Rachel Homan as they look to bring home gold medals from overseas.

7. Toronto Argonauts vs. Calgary Stampeders

For the second year in a row, the heavily favoured Stampeders were stunned in the Grey Cup, only this time it came with a bigger punch to the gut.

A 109-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Cassius Vaughn allowed the Argos to tie the game with five minutes to go, and they completed the comeback with a late field goal and an interception of a Bo Levi Mitchell pass in the end zone.

6. New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons

Here’s some advice for whoever makes the Super Bowl next month in Minneapolis. Try not to blow a 28-3 lead if you find yourself in that scenario.

In the first ever Super Bowl to go to overtime, the Falcons coughed up a 25-point lead as Tom Brady led the way for the Patriots as he became the first quarterback to win the NFL’s biggest game on five occasions.

5. Clemson Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Completing our trifecta of football title games, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow on a two-yard touchdown pass with a second left on the clock to give the school their first national championship since 1981.

While their recent rematch in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day left a lot to be desired, their two title fights in 2016 and 2017 will go down among the best championship games in college football history.

4. Seattle Thunderbirds vs. Regina Pats

There are always jokes on Twitter about having the ever dangerous 3-1 lead, especially when the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Indians were unable to close the deal in 2016 in their championship series.

Unfortunately for the Pats, that fate befell them in the sixth game of the WHL final, as the Thunderbirds scored two late goals and then found the back of the net in overtime to win their first league title and knock off the top team in the Canadian Hockey League last year.

3. Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

For as long as I’ve watched baseball, nothing prepared me for the fifth game of the World Series, which made little to no sense.

With a bevy of home runs and numerous lead changes, the Astros prevailed in the tenth inning to win a wild 13-12 affair as they went on to win their first title in franchise history.

2. Cobourg Cougars vs. Brooks Bandits

Thanks to a great performance by netminder Stefano Durante and an overtime blast from Nick Minerva, the Cougars won the RBC Cup final in a stunning upset over a Brooks Bandits side that had dominated everything in their path all season.

Say what you will about a host team winning a tournament, but the Cougars certainly earned it after beating the Penticton Vees and the Bandits in their final two games of the event.

1. Battlefords North Stars vs. Flin Flon Bombers

A 6-5 thriller is one of the best scores in hockey and that was especially true in Game 4 of the SJHL final in Flin Flon.

Not only did the North Stars capture their first league title since 2000 at the Whitney Forum, but they also became the first team since the 1982 Prince Albert Raiders to run the table in the playoffs. 

© Copyright Battlefords News Optimist

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