Four veterans familiar with the Royal Bank Cup format and process should give the Camrose Kodiaks a huge advantage at the national junior A championship May 3-11 in Charlottetown, P. E. I.
Alberta Junior Hockey League champion Camrose advanced to the Royal Bank Cup for the second time in three seasons by beating the British Columbia Hockey League champion Vernon Vipers in the best-of-seven Doyle Cup championship.
“That’s huge now,” said Camrose general manager/coach Boris Rybalka, who also has experience from an undefeated run at the 2001 Royal Bank Cup in Flin Flon, Man.
“We were using the veterans, during the Doyle Cup, to explain what we are going through. I think we are the only team with four guys who have been through a Royal Bank Cup.
“We told the four from the championship team that they have to let the young men know what it’s all about.”
Defenceman Craig Perry, forwards Jordan Chomack, Darrell Stoddard and Mark Szott were with the Kodiaks when they won six consecutive games in the tournament two years ago.
“We’re telling the guys it’s the same as Flin Flon,” said Rybalka. “Every game is a seventh game or a best-of-one.”
Goalie Mike Brodeur has been the anchor for Camrose, which has a 60-26-5 record in 91 games overall. The Kodiaks are 20-7 in the playoffs after finishing second in the Rogers AT & T Wireless South Division, and third overall, at 40-19-5 during the regular schedule.
“Mike has been our most valuable player,” said Rybalka, before adding Brodeur “has had his hiccups during the season.
“He’s a fierce competitor. He loves the game.”
Brodeur, 20, has a 2.14 goals against average, .930 saves percentage, 20-7 won-lost record and four shutouts in 1,770 minutes in the playoffs. He has a 2.43 goals against average, .924 saves percentage, 48-23-2 won-lost-tied record and six shutouts in 4,340 minutes overall.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Brodeur was second in the league with a 2.64 goals against average, .921 saves percentage and 28-16-2 won-lost-tied record in 2,570 minutes during the regular season.
“He has been amazing,” said Rybalka. “He has been hot for us.”
Right winger Stoddard, 21, leads Camrose with 41 goals and 91 points in 87 games overall. Justin Perry, 20, leads the Kodiaks with 58 assists and is second among Kodiaks with 85 points in 85 games.
“We’re almost identical to the team from two years ago,” said Rybalka. “The biggest similarity is that we have four balanced lines, six solid defencemen and a great goalie.”
Matt McKnight, 18, is third among Camrose players with 76 points, including 31 goals, in 83 games overall. Left winger Chomack, 20, and Scott Stewart, 21, each have 75 points in 87 games.
Ryan Muspratt, 19, has 35 goals and 74 points in 83 games. Chomack and Stewart have 38 and 33 goals, respectively, on a roster that has five 30-goal scorers.
Defenceman Matt Jacques, 21, is another offensive threat with 50 assists and 65 points in 89 games. Jacques contributed one goal and three assists April 26 in a 5-4 overtime win that wrapped up the series against Vernon on home ice.
Camrose can also boast about having two players who were selected in the National Hockey League entry draft last year. Defenceman Dan Glover was chosen by the New Jersey Devils and the Kodiaks added goalie Glenn Fisher, who was picked by the Edmonton Oilers, from the Fort Saskatchewan Traders.
“How can you argue with somebody who the Oilers drafted?” asked Rybalka. “We have two of the top goalies, who give us a solid one-two punch.”
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Glover is among six Camrose players committed to National Collegiate Athletic Association schools. Fisher is also following the NCAA path in 2003-04.
Rybalka emphasizes that Camrose didn’t have the same lineup in any game in the Doyle Cup, after a gruelling seven-game series against the St. Albert Saints in the best-of-seven league final.
“We have a lot of bumps and bruises,” he said. “But we played with pride and got the job done.
“The guys who dressed gave it their all.”
Glover will celebrate his 20th birthday when Camrose plays its first game at the national championship May 4 against the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League champion Charlottetown Abbies.
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