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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018
TELUS Cup 2018: The rest of the field
by Randy Pascal

No less than 151 midget “AAA” teams from across the country began play last September, all with dreams of earning a trip to Sudbury in April, site of the 2018 Telus Cup.

The Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, quite obviously, constituted the one and only guarantee, securing one of the six spots up for grabs by virtue of their role as host team.

That would leave 150 entries duking it out for just five slots. Following is a quick look, by region, at the teams that will join the local squad in the mix next week in Sudbury:

Atlantic Region: The earliest of the groupings to crown a champion, the Maritime crew will send a Moncton Flyers team to Northern Ontario, intent on replicating history. That will be no easy task. In capturing gold at the 2017 Telus Cup in Prince George last year, the Cape Breton West Islanders became the first ever Atlantic representatives to hoist the hardware at nationals in the 39 year history of the event.

After finishing first in the NB/PEI Major Midget League with a record of 27-6-2-0, the Flyers cruised through their provincial rounds, sweeping eight straight games from the Fredericton Caps and Saint John Vito's. Atlantic Regionals would be a whole other story, however, the Moncton crew forced to bounce back from a tournament opening 7-0 loss to the St Johns Maple Leafs.

Three straight victories propelled them into the championship affair, opposite the Dartmouth Steele Subaru Major Midgets. The Flyers trailed 2-0 after twenty minutes of play, but pulled even on goals from Lukas Cormier and Mark Richard, sending the contest to overtime. Just under a minute into the second extra period, Cole Stewart tucked home a rebound from close range, earning the Moncton lads a trip east.

Quebec Region: The champions from La Belle Province topped the podium no less than ten separate times in the first 23 years that the Air Canada/Telus Cup was contested. Not since 2001, when the Gouverneurs de Ste Foy turned the trick, has it happened since. Les Cantonniers de Magog are anxious to end that streak this spring.

After showing the way in the regular season in the 15-team league that covers the entire province of Québec, les Cantonniers worked their way through four series of playoff hockey, including a four game sweep of the Estacades de Trois-Rivières, highlighted by yet another overtime series winning goal, this time courtesy of Jacob Dion.

Offensively, the squad from Magog will be led by forward Patrick Guay, who recorded 64 points and closed off the 2017-2018 campaign in a three-way tie behind league scoring Justin Hryckowian (Lac St Louis).

Pacific Region: The Lethbridge Hurricanes have completed an improbable “worst to first” run, following up a league-leading 24-5-6 campaign by taking out the Edmonton Knights of Columbus Pats 6-1 in a fifth an deciding game in their AMHL series. From there, the 'Canes looked equally as dominant in sweeping past the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds 5-3 and 6-1 in the regional final.

This marks the first time that Lethbridge has claimed the Alberta title, and it follows a season in which the team occupied the basement of the Chrysler Division standings with a mark of 7-22-5. That said, this is an altogether different collection of talent, and one which has already know plenty of success along the way.

With coach Michael Dyck at the helm, a core of the Lethbridge team can look back on provincial championships claimed in 2012 (Atom “AA”), 2014 (Peewee “AA”), 2016 (Bantam “AAA”) and 2017 (Minor Midget “AAA”), prior to earning a trip to Sudbury earlier this month.

The Hurricanes are led by second leading scorer Ridly Greig (24G-30A-32GPs), as well as top ranked goaltender Carl Tetachuk, boasting a goals against average of just 1.81.

Central Region: The Toronto Young Nationals will be looking to claim their second Telus Cup championship in the span of four years when they travel to Northern Ontario. To get there, however, the storied program dodged a few bullets along the way.

Cruising their way to a GTHL (Greater Toronto Hockey League) crown with just a loss and two ties in three rounds of playoff hockey, the Nats were put more firmly to the test at the Central Region playdowns in Rockland. The team emerged from round robin play with a record of just 2-3, though all three of their losses were sustained by one goal only.

The Ontario champs would flip things around come playoff time, edging the Rockland Nationals 4-3 when Austin Brimmer netted his fifth goal of the tournament to snap a 3-3 tie late in the third period, and following up with an impressive 6-2 triumph over the Ajax-Pickering Raiders.

Benjamin Biasi paced the attack with a hat trick, as Toronto featured no less than five players in the leading eight scorers of the championships (Brimmer, Cole Burtch, Yianni Tsiampas, Michael Palandra and Evan Pringle).

West Region: Though four teams competed at the Telus Cup West Regional, a betting man was likely inclined to lay some money on the Notre-Dame Hounds from Wilcox, Saskatchewan. That mindset becomes prevalent when you're already home to one of the most storied midget “AAA” programs in the country, and follow it up with a season to remember.

A 39-2-0 regular season stat-line in Saskatchewan Midget “AAA” Hockey League play which gives way to nine straight triumphs in capturing provincial bragging rights can certainly turn a lot of heads.

And while the Winnipeg Wild gave them a solid run for their money, losing 4-3 in round robin play, it was the Hounds who would turn in up a notch, completing a flawless weekend with a 5-2 win in the gold medal encounter.

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