For the first time since 2001, a team from British Columbia will play for the National Midget Championship.
Thanks to a pair of 4-1 wins over the Cariboo Cougars on March 23-24 in Prince George, the Vancouver North West Giants were crowned champions of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League.
And thanks to the Red Deer Optimist Rebels’ 3-1 win over the Leduc Oil Kings on March 28, the Giants are off to the TELUS Cup.
In any other year, the B.C. champion and the Alberta champion would meet in a best-of-three series at the Pacific Regional, with the winner advancing to the TELUS Cup.
But with the Optimist Rebels already assured of a spot in this year’s event – they will host the April 23-29 tournament – the Pacific Regional was deemed unnecessary, and the Giants will make the trip to Central Alberta.
Arguably one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch in the regular season, the Giants went 13 games – 12 wins and a tie – without a loss to wrap up their season, finishing second in the eleven-team BCMMHL.
After a first-round bye, a two-game sweep of the defending champion Okanagan Rockets in the semi-final sent the Giants north for a date with the Cougars, with whom the Giants finished level with on points during the regular season, but wound up second on a tiebreaker (the Cougars had 28 wins to the Giants’ 27).
Landon Ferraro, with three goals, and Dustin Mowrey, with two, led the way offensively for the Giants, while the team’s goaltending was solid between the pipes in both games, including 35 saves from Kyle Nielson in the Game 1 win, and 33 from Graeme Gordon in the clincher.
The Giants are the first B.C. team to play for the National Midget Championship since the Prince George Cougars hosted the Air Canada Cup in 2001, and only the fifth team from the province to appear since the tournament format changed from provincial champions to regional champions in 1984 – the 2001 Cougars and 1996 North Kamloops Lions both hosted, while the 1992 Lions and 1986 Burnaby Hawks qualified.
Only the 1996 Lions, with a bronze, have ever won a medal at the National Midget Championship representing B.C. The Giants hope that changes come April 29 at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer.