Now I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but I have correctly predicted four of the five finalists in the 2014 Royal Bank Cup, the National championship for Junior ‘A’ hockey in Canada.
Before the Junior ‘A’ season began I scoured through the leagues and made my selections. I chose the OJHL’s Toronto Lakeshore Patriots as the winners of the Dudley Hewitt Cup and the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL as the victors of the Fred Page Cup.
Of course I also chose the Yorkton Terriers to win the Western Canada Cup (I obviously can’t go against the home town heroes, right?) and the Vernon Vipers were everyone’s pick to make it seeing as they earned an automatic berth as hosts.
The only team I didn’t pick to make it was the Dauphin Kings.
So let’s look at those perfect prediction spoiling Kings.
The Kings finished the MJHL regular season with a record of 40-17-3 for 83 points and first overall in the MJHL’s Sher-Wood Division.
Their 83 points also placed them third overall in the league, three back of the Steinbach Pistons and 19 off the league pace set by the Selkirk Steelers.
Dauphin then won their first eight playoff games, sweeping the OCN Blizzard in four straight without allowing a single goal, before ousting the Sher-Wood Division second place team the Virden Oil Capitals to qualify for the final, where they got blindsided by the Winnipeg Blues, losing the MJHL title in five games.
Luckily for the Kings, however, they earned a chance at redemption as hosts of the Western Canada Cup. A 3-1 record through the round-robin portion of the WCC with wins over the Spruce Grove Saints (4-2), the Winnipeg Blues (4-3 OT) and the Coquitlam Express (5-3) propelled the host Kings into the WCC championship against the Yorkton Terriers (who had beaten the Kings earlier in the week 8-6).
A 5-4 setback to the Terriers in the championship game meant the Kings had to beat the Spruce Grove Saints one more time in order for them to qualify for the Royal Bank Cup.
The Kings did just that with a come-from-behind 4-3 win on their home ice.
Offensively the Kings are led by Dylan Butler (20 goals, 37 assists), Jesse Bernard (18 goals, 35 assists) and Brent Wold (20 goals, 27 assists). Wold might just be the player to watch for the Kings at the Royal Bank Cup as he had six goals and five assists in just six WCC games and seems to be hitting his stride at the perfect time.
The biggest question for the Kings, however, will be goaltending. Michael Stiliadis, their star all throughout the season, was shellacked by the Terriers in the WCC before leaving the tournament with an injury. His back up Jordan Piccolino, who for some reason was named the goalie of the tournament, wasn’t much better and, if not for 16-year-old rookie Troy Martyniuk, would have been shouldered the the loss against Spruce Grove.
Toronto Lakeshore Patriots
Let’s take a look at the Central representatives at the Royal Bank Cup now.
Fresh off their first ever OJHL title in which they beat the Toronto Jr. Canadians, the North York Rangers, the Georgetown and the Aurora Tigers, the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots felt the need to lock up another set of hardware.
The Ontario champions, who finished the regular season with a 35-12-3-3 record for 76 points and first place on the South Division, then ran through competition at the Dudley Hewitt Cup, defeating the host Wellington Dukes in the final 2-1 to clinch their first ever Royal Bank Cup appearance.
This Toronto Lakeshore team is much like the Terrier team from last year. They play a defensive style and rely on scoring from all lines to get the job done. They had four players hit the 50 point plateau this season, led by Andreas Tsogkas with 31 goals and 26 assists for 57 points.
Their second highest scorer is also their best blueliner. Michael Prapavessis scored just five goals all season but tallied am impressive 50 assists to finish with 55 points, while Kevin Shier (21 goals, 33 assists) and Doug Bonar (20 goals, 30 assists) have also reached 50 points.
Jeremy Helvig carried the brunt of the work between the pipes in the regular season, however it was Evan Buitenhuis that saw all the playoff action, recording a 16-3-0 record throughout the post season.
Carleton Place Canadians
The Canadians were the top team in the CCHL the entire season, compiling a 54-6-1-1 record throughout the regular season.
The then went 12-4 through the playoffs, ousting the Kemptville 73’s, Pembroke Lumber Kings and Smith Falls Bears en route to their first ever CCHL title.
Carleton Place continued their dominance at the Fred Page Cup in St. Jerome, Quebec, going 3-0 in the round robin with wins over the Truro Bearcats, Granby Inouk and host St. Jerome Panthers before once again defeating the host Panthers in the final 3-1 to qualify for the Royal Bank Cup.
The Canadians are led by the offensively gifted duo of Andy Sturtz and Evan Peterson. Sturtz led all Carleton Place players with 51 goals and 53 assists for 104 points in 58 games.
Peterson, meanwhile, scored 34 goals and added 62 assists for a total of 96 points.
Brett D’Andrea was third on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 47 assists but after that the offensive production tails off meaning if any team can shut down their top line the Canadians will be in trouble.
The goaltending duo of Guillaume Therien and Justin Laforest split the netminding duties in the regular season, however it was Therien that backstopped the Canadians to the CCHL, and Fred Page Cup, titles.
The Vipers are the hosts for the 2014 Royal Bank Cup. Be warned, however, that the Vipers are not going to be pushovers.
Vernon finished the regular season at a respectable 30-18-4-6 before upsetting the West Kelowna Warriors four-games-to-two in the first round of the BCHL playoffs. The Vipers then knocked off the Penticton Vees four-games-to-three to move on to the three team round robin series against the Victoria Grizzlies and Coquitlam Express.
The Vipers won both games to advance to the BCHL finals but were ran over by the Express in four games to end their playoff run.
The Vipers have 12 NCAA Division I committed players on their team as well as three with Major Junior experience.
Mike McNicholas (23 goals, 46 assists) and Dexter Dancs (26 goals, 41 assists) are by far their two most dangerous players, however it was Colton Sparrow that led the team in playoff scoring with eight goals and 14 assists.
Austin Smith, who spent parts of two seasons with the Swift Current Broncos, is the guy that the Vipers rely on between the pipes.
With all due respect to the four other teams that have qualified for the tournament, the Royal Bank Cup is the Yorkton Terriers to win (or lose).
I see the Terriers finishing first after the round-robin portion of the tournament before knocking off the Carleton Place Canadians 4-1 on National television to win their first National title.
Note: The Yorkton Terriers aren’t included in this article because they are the local team and are therefore well known already).