MJHL's Steelers sitting pretty

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The Selkirk Steelers couldn't be sitting any prettier if they were the Sultans of Brunei.

They lead the Humboldt Broncos 3-2 in the best-of-seven ANAVET Cup, they have two chances to close it out, and both games will be at home in front of 2,500 ardent supporters, starting tonight with Game 6 at 7:30 at Selkirk Rec Complex.

What more could a team want?

"It's a great feeling," Steelers coach Keith Cassidy said yesterday. "This is something that we've set out to do all year, and we've still got a lot of work left to get there.

"I try not to think too much about the prospect right now. I'm just trying to focus on the next game."

Cassidy knows his history. The SJHL champs have won 25 of 33 ANAVET Cups, including Kindersley's come-from-behind win over the MJHL-champion Steelers in 2004. Selkirk led that series 3-1.

Evan Walsh and Jordy Johnson are the remaining Steelers from that 2004 squad, so you can bet they'll be leaving it all on the ice tonight.

"We talked about that before the series started," Cassidy said. "There's still a bitter taste in their mouth from what happened. They certainly have it on their mind."

It's difficult to predict what will happen tonight and, if necessary, in tomorrow night's Game 7, also at SRC. The teams split the first two games last weekend in Selkirk, and the Broncos trounced the Steelers 6-3 in Game 3 in Humboldt on Tuesday night.

Selkirk, however, bounced back with a 6-1 thrashing of their own in Game 4 and squeaked out a 4-3 win in Game 5 on Thursday to grab the advantage.

"There's a lot of bumps and bruises guys are playing through right now, and it's all about character," said Cassidy, whose club got back to Selkirk at 7 a.m. yesterday.

The Steelers took yesterday off and will skate this morning before trying to break their ugly streak of seven consecutive losses in the ANAVET Cup, which dates back to 1976. And no one will be missing the game because of a cold.

"Guys that are hurtin', they're holding themselves together with duct tape and trying to get the job done," Cassidy said. "It's the same for both teams.

"It would take a miracle to keep someone out of the game."

Cassidy will start backup netminder Cody Didychuk tonight. Andrew Leslie returned from injury to start the first three games of the series, but Didychuk, who guided the Steelers to the MJHL crown in Leslie's absence, has won two straight, so Cassidy is going with the hot hand.

The ANAVET winner advances to the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship, which will be held in Prince George, B.C., and begins a week from today.

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RARE WINS

The SJHL leads the MJHL 25-8 in the 33-year history of the ANAVET Cup. Eight MJHL teams got rare victories:

Team Year

Portage Terriers 2005

OCN Blizzard 2002*

Winnipeg S. Blues 1995

Winkler Flyers 1992*

Winnipeg S. Blues 1986

Dauphin Kings 1983

Selkirk Steelers 1975

Selkirk Steelers 1974**

** won Canadian junior A championship

* lost Canadian junior A championship game


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