The defending Royal Bank Cup finalist OCN Blizzard has a reasonable objective after winning its fifth consecutive Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship.
“The guys from last season know what they want,” said OCN general manager/coach Glen Watson. “They want to go back.”
OCN has a 12-1 playoff record, is 67-8-0 and has one overtime loss in 76 games overall. The Blizzard will play the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion in the best-of-seven Anavet Cup beginning April 19 on home ice in The Pas.
The Anavet Cup champion will qualify for the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship May 3-11 in Charlottetown, P. E. I.
Left winger Aaron Starr was among the stars as OCN swept the Southeast Blades in the best-of-seven league final.
“He scored some big goals in the last couple of games,” said Watson. “He’s been solid all season.
“There are some professional teams looking at him. He has regained his confidence after not playing much when he was in the Western Hockey League.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Starr scored the winning goal in overtime in each of the third and fourth games of the league final, before crowds of 1,550 and 1,600, respectively, on Southeast’s home ice.
Starr, who celebrated his 20th birthday March 27, led league playoff scorers with 14 goals and was second among league playoff scorers with 22 points in 13 games. He has 74 goals and 132 points in 77 games overall.
Starr tied for second in the league and Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League with 60 goals in 64 regular-season games. He was fourth in the league with 110 points.
Veteran centres Andy Coates and Michael Young, goalies Andrew Gallant and rookie Jonathan Meyer are among OCN’s other leaders. The Blizzard can also boast about a strong supporting cast, including a veteran defence and four solid lines.
“We have some good balance,” said Watson. “We’re rolling four lines.”
Jason Kowalski and right winger Kiel Wilgosh joined Starr with six points each in the league final. Veterans Ryan Weistche and Mike Kaluzny contributed five points each.
Coates, 20, was the league scoring champion with a league-leading 62 goals and 120 points in 64 regular-season games. He was the leading goal scorer in the CJAHL and was second in the 10 Canadian junior A leagues with his point total.
The 6-foot, 188-pound Coates has 66 goals and 135 points in 77 games overall.
Young, 20, has 75 assists and 99 points in 73 games overall.
“Our seven veteran guys are solid,” said Watson, assessing the defence led by Alton Jackson and Mike Gooch.
“I think we’re better on defence than last season. Everybody contributes. We have four guys who could be the top defenceman on a lot of other teams.”
OCN has scored 475 goals and has allowed 168 goals. The Blizzard led the CJAHL with 401 goals during the regular schedule.
Meyer, 18, led the league with a 2.34 goals against average in 1,540 minutes during the regular season. He had a 22-4 won-lost record and was second in the league with a .920 saves percentage.
Gallant, 20, led the league with a 31-5 won-lost record in 2,177 minutes during the regular schedule. He was third in the league with a .918 saves percentage and 2.62 goals against average.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gallant has a 2.70 goals against average and 39-5 won-lost record in 2,730 minutes overall.
OCN swept the Dauphin Kings and defeated the Portage Terriers 4-1 in best-of-seven Sherwood Division series before advancing against Southeast. The Blizzard outscored its opponents 74-34.
Young led league playoff scorers with 17 assists and tied for fourth among league playoff scorers with 19 points in 13 games. Kaluzny and Coates tied for seventh among league playoff scorers with 15 points each.
Centre Mark Wallman and Kowalski have 13 points each for OCN in the playoffs. Wilgosh and Trevor Len have 12 points each.
Jackson led league playoff defencemen with 10 assists and tied for second among league playoff defencemen with 11 points in 12 games.
Please check the CJAHL web site at www.cjahl.com for all your Canadian junior A information