The Nickel City Major Bantam "AAA" Sons have proven, at times, that they absolutely have the ability to compete against the very best in the province.
All of which may or may need mean a whole lot when the dust settles at the 2018 All-Ontario Bantam "AAA" Championships in Orillia this week.
"I think we can make it to the finals, give it a run," noted goaltender Jake Marois, as the team practiced one final time last weekend before heading out of town. "We have to move the puck a lot, play as a team, and just work really hard."
The Sons posted a regular season mark of 26-0-1 in the Northern Ontario "AAA" Hockey League, and followed that up by sweeping past both the Timmins North Stars and Sault Greyhounds, outscoring their regional rivals 52-3.
Not exactly the type of stiff competition that preps a team well for an event which brings you face to face with the best in the province.
"We just can't take any shifts off, all of the teams down there are really good," suggested forward Devon Savignac. "I feel that we are good enough to compete down there, we have the skill-set. If we just keep working and use our speed, we can compete."
For the majority of the players on the team, this marks the second appearance at a "AAA" All-Ontario Championship, the Peewee event two years ago hosted at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, with squads representing both the Sudbury Wolves and Nickel City Sons competing.
"I remember being in the (Laurentian) Voyageurs' room, because it was really nice," recalled defenceman Marco Vigna. "We were all so excited, with it being our first OHFs. Even though we didn't succeed very well, it was a lot of fun."
"This one is more meaningful," Savignac agreed. "When we were younger, it was just fun. Now, we're tying to get serious – this is a big tournament." That mindset is prevalent, even as coach Chris McInnis puts his troops through their paces at Cambrian Arena last Thursday.
"It always starts with practice," said Vigna. "If we have high speed practices with intensity, it should help. And a good warm-up too, right when we step on the ice."****************************************
After a bit of a slow start, the Nickel City crew are starting to catch their stride. The NOHA champs played the Waterloo Wolves to a 3-3 draw in their opening game on Monday, overcoming a pair of two goal deficits to earn the point.
Teegan Dumont, Zacharie Giroux and Chris Innes scored for the locals, while Jaxson Murray enjoyed a three point game for Waterloo (2G + 1A). With two games on the slate for Tuesday, the Sons were stuck behind the eight ball early, doubled 4-2 by the Ottawa Valley Titans.
Nickel City enjoyed a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period, courtesy of goals from Mitchell Martin and Brandon Hass, with the Titans pulling even in the second and netting the game-winner six minutes into the third.
Making matters worse, the second game on the docket would see the Sons set to face the undefeated North Central Predators (2-0-1) on Tuesday evening. Thankfully, the team produced their best effort to date.
Late in the third period of play, the Sons were enjoying a 4-0 lead over the Predators. Devon Savignac, Cameron Walker, Ethan Marois and Mitchell Martin all hit the mark, while Jake Marois was keeping the North Central reps, led by 2019 OHL draft standout Cole Patey, at bay.
The locals face a must-win on Wednesday, battling the winless (0-3) Thunder Bay Kings, before heading into make or break day on Thursday, with encounters against the #1 ranked Don Mills Flyers (2-0-1) and Whitby Wildcats (1-2-0).
Rounding out the 2017-2018 edition of the Nickel City Major Bantam "AAA" Sons are Alexander Antoine, Jimmy Blanchard, Patrick Boivin, Owen Jalbert, Josh Kavanagh, Max McCue, Bradey Smith and affiliated call-ups Wilson Farrow and Nolan Moxam.