Jr. Steelheads win 3rd straight Thorne Cup

Filip Kasaly scored twice, and Blake Mendenhall stopped 27 shots as the Idaho Jr. Steelheads won the WSHL's Thorne Cup for the third consecutive year 4-2 over the Bay Area Seals.

Idaho's won over 92 percent of its games in the last three seasons - leading the way in the WSHL tier III junior league. WSHL Commissioner Ron White said teams hiring more experienced coaches - like the Idaho Jr. Steelheads hiring former Steelheads coach John Olver - has improved the quality of the entire league.

Olver wasn't as quick to take the credit.

"Our ownership in Darrell Swigert has financially given this team the tools to be competitive at the highest level of Junior-A Tier III Hockey," Olver said.

That support allows Olver time and travel to scout and recruit from almost anywhere - which White says Idaho does as good as any team in the WSHL. But Idaho-born players litter the Jr. Steelheads roster, and they aren't just there for looks.

"There's been a bunch of Idaho players who have really done a terrific job," Olver said. This is the first season an Idaho native has not been a team captain in the four-year history of the club.

"We're able to bring the team together," Idaho native and Jr. Steelhead forward Dallas Crum said. "I think they like having us here and we've introduced them to friends and people they'll meet and be friends for a long time with."

The one thing about the Boise players I think's been consistent," Olver said, "Is the character of the people they are and their work ethic."

While the trickle-down effect of the Jr. Steelheads success on local youth hockey isn't highly evident yet, Olver said it's getting much easier to find capable young players in Idaho now. In the next couple years, some could even be drafted at levels higher than the Jr. Steelheads.

Olver gets calls from teams regularly attempting to lure him away from Idaho, but he said he's not interested. In fact, he seems incredibly proud of the effect he's already had on hockey in the gem state through his leadership of the Steelheads.

"There's Cal (Ingraham), Jeremy (Mylymok), Rob Dumas and all those other guys. Former Steelheads doing good work in the community," he said.

One-by-one, branches extending from the Olver coaching tree to benefit the sport of hockey in Idaho.