They won't be called for too many men on the ice but the Soo North Stars will have the advantage of an extra attacker throughout the Air Canada Cup national midget AAA hockey championships.
With the tournament scheduled for Sault Ste. Marie April 21-27 and the Stars gaining entry as the host team, players are hopeful the hometown crowd will give them a little extra jump.
"It really didn't sink in for a while but now that it's getting closer, everyone's starting to get jacked," said Stars goalie Michael Maulucci. "We know we have to play well and we know that everybody will be here to watch us.
"I'm sure it's going to be a huge experience for all of us because none of us will probably go through something this big again."
Maulucci, who has been a workhorse all season, said he'd love to make it to the playoff round, particularly because of the large crowd it would attract.
"That would be huge if we could get to the semifinals," he said. "We'd be the biggest thing in town and everyone would be there to watch us. We know every game is going to be tough so we have to make sure we're at our best."
The North Stars are coming off a stellar season in which they tied a team record for fewest goals allowed (96) in a season. The previous mark belonged to the 1992-93 team (then Soo Legion) that had Marty Turco in goal.
Offensively, the Stars are led by David Turco, Cory Sewell and Adam Combs while on defence, Jeff Elliott,
Dustin Curts and Trevor Solomon lead the way.
According to Stars coach Mike Hall, Solomon is among the best 15-year-olds in the province.
"In my estimation, Trevor's one of the best 15-year-olds I've seen play this year," Hall said.
Like Maulucci, Hall is hoping his team will benefit from being the host team.
"I'm hoping it'll be an advantage for us," Hall said. "We should have some big crowds and some of these kids will never play in front of crowds like that again."
"I know our kids are excited and looking forward to it."
But for as excited as the Stars are, Hall said it's not going to be easy. He said the last time they competed in the Air Canada Cup in 1999, they didn't win a game.
"Lets face it, the competition's very stiff in this tournament," Hall said. "I just hope my guys play their best. That's all I can ask for. Teams from out West and Quebec will be tough to beat.
"Heck, Quebec only has nine AAA midget teams in the entire province. We have nine in our league (Great North Midget Hockey League) alone."
Stars defenceman Jacob Porco said the challenge is much more difficult for teams from Ontario because they don't have the luxury of icing rosters congested with 17-and -8 year old players. He said the fact the '99 Soo team failed to win a game at the nationals, says a lot about the level of play.
"They (Soo) had a pretty good team in 1999 in Prince Albert and they didn't even win a game," Porco said. "They got killed 9-2, 10-2 and they had Beau Neveau and David Borrelli and a few others.
"Obviously, it's going to be a big challenge but we're looking forward to it."
While the Stars earned entry as the host team, they nearly qualified through the front door only to lose 4-3 to Sudbury in the fifth and deciding game of their Northern Ontario Hockey Association championship series.
Sudbury then made it to the championship game of the provincial finals before losing 3-2 to Waterloo, who will be in the Sault.
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