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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018
Terrific tales of TELUS Cups gone by
by Randy Pascal

Come Monday at noon, the puck will drop on the 40th edition of the national midget “AAA” boys hockey championship, dating back to its roots as the Air Canada Cup, launched in 1979 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Over the course of the six ensuing days, six of Canada's top midget “AAA” teams will battle it out in Sudbury, looking to write the next chapter in the tradition that is the annual TELUS Cup.

The past four decades have produced many an amazing tournament story-line. Following is a quick snapshot of a few of the playdowns that garnered significant interest, for a variety of reasons:

2017 in Prince George (B.C): Although the most recent, the tournament last April marked the first time ever that a Maritime entry had hoisted the hardware. A goal by Logan Chisholm 5:39 into overtime lifted the Cape Breton West Islanders to a 5-4 win over the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-Francois. Ironically, Chisholm had also forced overtime, scoring with just under six minutes remaining in regulation time.

Cape Breton had squeezed into the playoff round by virtue of a tie-breaker, having beaten the Leduc Oil Kings 4-1 earlier in the week in a battle of teams that would finish round robin play at 2-3. The Islanders then surprised the Mississauga Rebels 2-1 in the semi-finals, before capping things off by playing for a fifth time in a contest decided by just a single goal.

2010 in Levis (P.Q.): No team, from coast to coast, has captured the Canadian midget championship more often than the Notre Dame Hounds from Wilcox, Saskatchewan (four times). The storied western school last took home gold in 2010, edging the Mississauga Reps 3-2 in the final with a team that included current Toronto Maple Leafs' defenceman Morgan Rielly.

The victory also marked the second consecutive national title for the Notre Dame lads, as the West Region representatives posted an unbeaten mark in round robin play, a stretch which included three ties in five games (2-0-3). The Hounds then eliminated the St John's Fog Devils in one semi-final (5-3), while Mississauga needed overtime to send the Gaulois de Collège Antoine-Girouard packing by a final score of 4-3.

1984 in North Bay (ONT): A Northern Ontario entry would first rise to prominence as a host team when the North Bay Pinehill midgets capped off a memorable week by emerging as tournament champions in the end. Coach Butch Turcotte and company defeated the afore-mentioned Notre Dame Hounds 5-3 to claim bragging rights in 1984.

Led by tournament MVP Guy Girouard, future NHLer Darren Turcotte, and blueline stalwart Brent Bywater, the host team looked solid in topping the round robin standings with a record of 4-0-1. Still, the NOHA crew needed double overtime in the semi-finals to slip past the Sherwood Park Chain Gang (Edmonton, AB) 5-4, a team that was coached by legendary NHL bench boss Ken Hitchcock.

2008 in Arnprior (ONT): All editions of the Canadian midget showdown, however, will pale in comparison to the 2008 tournament in the eyes of Sudburians. It wasn't just that the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves claimed the holy grail of their age bracket playoffs for the first and only time in program history. It was at least as much the manner in which they did it.

Coach Peter Michelutti Jr's squad trailed the undefeated (6-0-0) Winnipeg Thrashers 3-2 after forty minutes of play, despite having built up an early 2-0 lead on goals from Steven Taylor and Deven Stillar. A three goal outburst in a span of 4:39 in the final frame would see Sudbury secure a two goal advantage, as Mathieu Lecours, Justin Lockeyer and Denis Restoule all hit paydirt on the power-play.

But clinging to a 5-4 lead in the final minute of play, the Nickel Capital Wolves would need one final jaw-dropping save from Christopher McDougall to help preserve the win, as Stefan Herrington clinched the contest with an empty-net marker, sending an entire city into celebration mode ten years ago this month.

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