North Stars bracing for tough series

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

Will there be a changing of the guard or will the Ile des Chenes North Stars get a shot at redemption? We're about to find out as the provincial Allan Cup playdown gets underway today at 7:30 p.m. at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, with the North Stars facing the Grunthal Red Wings. Game 2 goes tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.

Both teams are a collection of amateur and former professional players who are looking for a crack at the Allan Cup, the symbol of senior hockey supremacy in Canada.

"It's going to be a tough one --both teams are stacked this year," said Roger St. Laurent, general manager of the North Stars. "We're better defensively than last year, we've added some bigger defencemen, and we've got more depth."

The Allan Cup North Stars feature five members of the Ile des Chenes team that plays in the Hanover-Tache Hockey League and members of the Foxwarren Falcons of the North Central Hockey League for the third consecutive season. They are hoping to get back to the Allan Cup for the first time since 2003, when they captured the title. Ile des Chenes made it out of Manitoba last year but fell short of playing for the Allan Cup when they lost to Saskatchewan's Mid-West Islanders.

Ile des Chenes should be led offensively by Pat Falloon, Kelly Glowa and Chris Low. Craig Geekie anchors the defence, while the netminding duties belong to Stan Reddick and Trevor Robbins.

The Red Wings, who have skated together since November and played six exhibition games, are hoping for a first crack at the Allan Cup.

"It's going to be interesting, a work in progress," said Red Wings head coach Bruce Southern. "We have four lines, and we plan to roll four lines. We've got a good group of guys; that's been evident from the beginning. It's finally here, and it's time to play for real."

Grunthal should be led offensively by Dan Stiver, Billy Lund, Russ Hogue and Jay Panzer. Don Malko is a threat on the point, and the goalies are Jason Genik and Andy Kollar, who is expected to get the call tonight.

The winner of the Manitoba playdown travels to Saskatchewan later this month to determine the Allan Cup participant. Lloydminster, Alta., will host the 2005 Allan Cup from April 19-24.


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