The games are done, the bags are packed and the hotel rooms are booked – the Road to the TELUS Cup has just six teams remaining on it. Two teams with a combined 14 appearances, two that have not skated at the National Midget Championship since the 1980s and two that were on the ice in Arnprior, Ont. last year highlight this year’s line-up.
CALGARY BUFFALOES – PACIFIC
One of the nation’s best Midget programs in the last half of this decade, the Buffaloes are making their third appearance at the National Midget Championship in four years, but are still searching for a second gold medal to join their 1989 crown. A win at the midseason Mac’s Midget Tournament seemed to spark the Buffaloes, who won a four-team battle for third in the division heading into the playoffs. It was offence by committee for the Buffaloes, whose leading scorer – Chris Collins – finished 18th in AMHL scoring and was the only Buffalo to crack the top 25. After earning series wins over a pair of Calgary rivals – the Flames and the Royals – the Buffaloes eliminated the regular season division champions from Lethbridge in four, wrapping up the series with an emphatic 12-3 win on home ice. The AMHL final went against the norm, in that the road team won every game, which worked to the benefit of the Buffaloes, who sewed up their second straight AMHL title with a 3-1 win in Game 5 in Sherwood Park. Traveling to Vancouver for the Pacific Regional, the teams split the first two games and were tied late in the third of Game 3 before Collins became the hero, scoring the game-winner and making the Buffaloes the first team to win back-to-back Pacific Regional titles since Red Deer won three in a row from 1994-96.
2008 (Arnprior, Ont.) – 4TH – 2W-4L-1T; 17GF 22GA
2006 (Charlottetown, P.E.I.) – SILVER – 4W-3L; 29 GF 28GA
1998 (Sudbury, Ont.) – BRONZE – 5W-1L-1T; 41GF 26GA
1989 (St. John’s, N.L.) – GOLD – 5W-2L; 26GF 18GA
1987 (Gloucester, Ont.) – BRONZE – 4W-3L; 28GF 21GA
1985 (Regina, Sask.) – BRONZE – 3W-3L-1T; 25GF 23GA
HAMILTON REPS – CENTRAL
After an 18-year absence, the city of Hamilton is back at the National Midget Championship. The Reps were the top team in the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario during the regular season, scoring 28 wins in 36 games to earn the league’s top seed for the playoffs. Andrew Radjenovic was the main sniper for Hamilton – he was the only Rep to break the 25-goal and 50-point barriers. The Reps hit a very minor speed bump in their opening series against Cambridge, settling for a tie in Game 2 before wrapping up the series in four. The Reps then rolled over Kitchener in three straight in the semifinal and earned the Alliance championship with a four-game sweep of the Windsor Jr. Spitfires to advance to the Central Regional. Winners of nine in a row and unbeaten in 14 entering the regional, Hamilton dropped its tournament opener against Sault Ste. Marie before rattling off wins over Oakville, Ottawa Valley and Burlington to grab one of the four semifinal berths. Hamilton jumped out to a 5-0 lead early in the second period of its semifinal and cruised to an 8-4 win over Sault Ste. Marie, putting it just one victory from Selkirk, a victory it got – 8-6 – over Oakville to give it a trip to the TELUS Cup and a chance to become the second straight Central Region team to win gold at the national championship.
1991 (Calgary, Alta.) – 6TH – 1W-4L; 15GF 27GA
ROUSSEAU SPORTS DE LAVAL-BOURASSA – QUEBEC
The Rousseau Sports have big shoes to fill at the 2009 TELUS Cup – the Quebec representative has won a medal at each of the last 11 National Midget Championships, counting three gold medals, two silver and six bronze over that span. The Rousseau Sports claimed the CCM Division regular season crown, and were just six points back of Collège Antoine-Girouard for the league’s regular season title. Sébastien Bergeron and Eliezer Sherbatov co-led Laval-Bourassa in scoring, tying for third in the LHMAAAQ scoring race. After sweeping Montréal in the preliminary round, the Rousseau Sports exploded in a four-game win over Amos, racking up 23 goals. Into the final four for the first time since 1999-2000, Laval-Bourassa faced its toughest test of the postseason, taking on Collège Esther-Blondin. After the teams split the first four games the Draveurs put Laval-Bourassa on the ropes, winning Game 5 in Laval. But the Rousseau Sports would not be denied, winning Game 6 on the road and sneaking into the championship series for the first time in 12 years with a 3-2 Game 7 win. With their big challenge out of the way, Laval-Bourassa overwhelmed Trois-Rivières in five games with the LHMAAAQ championship on the line, closing out its first Quebec title since 1988 with a Game 5 win on home ice, booking its ticket west for the 2009 TELUS Cup.
1988 (Thunder Bay, Ont.) – 6TH – 0W-4L-1T; 18GF 28GA
MONCTON FLYERS – ATLANTIC
For the first time since they hosted the Air Canada Cup in 1986, the Moncton Flyers will play for Canada’s National Midget Championship. The Flyers won their second consecutive NB/PEIMMHL regular season title, finishing three points ahead of their 2007-08 pace and five points up on the second-place Cornwall Thunder. Brothers Allain and Alex Saulnier finished one-two in league scoring, while Gino Goguen took third. After quickly dispatching Miramichi in four straight, the Flyers swept past the Saint John Vitos to earn the New Brunswick championship, finally reaching the Atlantic Regional after losing in the championship series to Fredericton the past two years. Moncton got off to a flying start at the regional tournament in Saint John, scoring wins over St. John’s and Cole Harbour, and a tie with Saint John booked a spot in the championship game against Cornwall, despite a round-robin-ending loss to the Thunder. With their season on the line midway through the third period, Moncton turned to its big guns as Allain Saulnier helped set up Goguen for the eventual game-winner on the power play with just under six minutes remaining. While this will be the fourth appearance at the National Midget Championship for the Flyers, it will be their first as Atlantic champions since the tournament went to the six-team format in 1984 – they were twice the New Brunswick representative during the tournament’s 12-team years (1979-83).
1986 (Moncton, N.B.) – 5TH – 1W-4L; 24GF 34GA
1980 (Cornwall, Ont.) – 8TH – 2W-3L; 17GF 20GA
1979 (Winnipeg, Man.) – 9TH – 1W-3L-1T; 16GF 22GA
NOTRE DAME HOUNDS – WEST
Nineteen years after their last appearance, the Notre Dame Hounds are back at the National Midget Championship. For the ninth time – the second most in tournament history – the Hounds will play for a national crown, and a gold medal will make them one of only five teams to win three or more times at the national championship. Notre Dame earned its second straight regular season title in the SMAAAHL, suffering only seven regulation-time losses in 44 games. Drew George was the offensive catalyst for the Hounds, finishing third in SMAAAHL scoring with 73 points, one of nine Hounds to rack up at least 30 points. After sweeping the overmatched Saskatoon Blazers in the opening round Notre Dame was in tough against Tisdale, earning a pair of tight 2-1 wins before eliminating the Trojans in three straight. The Hounds used the momentum of the win over Tisdale to sweep past Beardy’s in the SMAAAHL final and wrap up their second straight playoff crown. After making the short trip to Swift Current for the West Regional, the Hounds suffered a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Wild in the tournament opener before rebounding to score wins over Thunder Bay and Swift Current, setting up a rematch with the Wild in the final. The Hounds opened up a 6-2 lead through 40 minutes en route to an 8-2 win and their first berth at the national championship since 1990.
1990 (Sorel, Que.) – BRONZE – 4W-2L-1T; 25GF 17GA
1987 (Gloucester, Ont.) – SILVER – 4W-3L; 28 GF 19GA
1986 (Moncton, N.B.) – GOLD – 7W-0L; 51GF 16GA
1984 (North Bay, Ont.) – SILVER – 4W-3L; 26GF 16GA
1982 (Victoria, B.C.) – 5TH – 4W-2L; 21GF 15GA
1981 (Halifax, N.S.) – 5TH – 3W-2L-1T; 24GF 17GA
1980 (Cornwall, Ont.) – GOLD – 6W-0L; 36GF 15GA
1979 (Winnipeg, Man.) – BRONZE – 5W-1L; 32GF 16GA
WINNIPEG THRASHERS – HOST
While they may not have been the dominant force they were in 2007-08, when they went 49-0 in Manitoba and won their first six games at the TELUS Cup before falling in the gold medal game, the Thrashers were again one of the top teams in the country in 2008-09. It was scoring by committee for Winnipeg during the regular season as five players racked up more than 40 points, led by Michael Hay’s 61, while Matt Glowa, Nolan Zajac, Jeremy Olinyk and Craig Scott also finished at a point-per-game-or-better pace. The Thrashers’ goaltending was one of its strong points all season, as Jason Kasdorf and Brett Gagnon both finished in the top four in goals against average and combined to allow only 101 goals, tops in the league. After a second-place finish in their division earned them a first-round bye, the Thrashers rolled over the Interlake Lightning in three straight and rebounded from an opening-game loss to knock off the Pembina Valley Hawks in four games and advance to the MMAAAHL final for the third time in as many seasons, where their cross-town rivals, the Winnipeg Wild, provided the opposition. Despite winning Game 1 on the road, the Thrashers would fall in four to the Wild, ending the dream of back-to-back provincial championships and denying them the chance to enter the 2009 TELUS Cup through the front door.
2008 (Arnprior, Ont.) – SILVER – 6W-1L; 31GF 17GA