From Brandon Sun
By Perry Bergson and Thomas Friesen
Tony Bertone and his Assiniboine Community College Cougars just got the best news they’ve had in 19 months.
Late Tuesday evening it was announced the United States border will open to fully vaccinated Canadians in early November. They found out after practice.
“I got home and my wife said ‘There’s some good news coming,’” Bertone said. “I started looking, started reading … and (captain) Simone (Turner-Cummer) texted me with the article. ‘Giddy up’ she says. Yeah, giddy up, all right. Very excited about that.
“The news of the border opening and us being able to travel down there and get back to some kind of normality is such a great relief.”
“Giddy up” became a catchphrase for the Cougars when they captured their first-ever American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 title in Texas in 2019. ACC went 31-0 in the 2019-2020 season before play was halted by the pandemic on March 12, 2020, and the 2020-21 campaign was essentially erased.
So far, they’ve been practising twice a week and doing dryland sessions. On Oct. 24, the current team will face a squad of alumni to allow them to have a scrimmage.
They host the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Silvertips on Nov. 6, and a day later have an exhibition game in Winnipeg against the Balmoral Hall prep team.
The Cougars host a tournament the weekend of Nov. 12-14 that will include Minnesota-Duluth, Dakota College at Bottineau and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. That was put in place once Americans were allowed to enter Canada with proof of vaccination and not face a 14-day quarantine.
Setting aside the irony of the less-vaccinated country with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases banning visitors from the more-vaccinated, less-affected country, the American government finally dropped some good news for the Cougars. Their first game south of the border is set for Dec. 4.
“I just took a big, deep breath there and just seemed to relax when I read that,” Bertone said. “I just want to get back to where we were. We were going to get on a plane a week after it got shut down and go to nationals and defend our title. We had a great group of players and I just felt so awful for them, felt awful that they missed out on that opportunity in their life.”
The Cougars will head to Sault Ste. Marie to play in a tournament hosted by Sault College that will include some American clubs. The club usually doesn’t head farther east than Thunder Bay, but since Lakehead University has shuttered its program again this season, ACC has to travel longer distances for Canadian games.
Each squad has to play at least 12 games against a minimum of five opponents to qualify for nationals, which are set for St. Louis, Mo., in March 2022.
(Originally published at https://www.brandonsun.com/sports/hockey/Border-news-big-for-Cougars-575526131.html)