The defending champions are coming back for another crack at the TELUS Cup.The Prince Albert Mintos held off the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-3 Sunday in the Western Regional championship to earn their second consecutive berth in the National Midget Championship.
The Mintos will come into the TELUS Cup, which runs April 23-29 in Red Deer, Olds and Carstairs, as one of the favourites. Not only did they beat the Calgary Buffaloes in the final last year, they also represent the powerful Western Region. The past three national champions have all come from the region, which stretches from Saskatchewan to northwestern Ontario.
If the Mintos are able to re-capture the TELUS Cup they will become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the National Midget Championship began in 1979.
Two other teams also qualified Sunday, bringing the field to five. The Sault Ste. Marie North Stars won the Central Region and the St. John’s Maple Leafs captured the Atlantic title. The host Red Deer Optimist Rebels and Vancouver Northwest Giants (Pacific) had previously qualified.
The Mintos built a 4-0 lead midway through the second period against the host Wheat Kings, but Brandon stormed back with three goals of their own. Mintos netminder Carsen Chubak shut the door and the Wheaties weren’t able to get the equalizer.
The Mintos went 3-0 in the round robin with wins over the Thunder Bay Kings, Winnipeg Thrashers and Wheat Kings.
The North Stars got off to a slow start at the Central Region championship in Waterloo, ON, but got hot when it counted. They finished the seven-team round robin in fourth place with a 3-3 mark, but knocked off the previously undefeated London Knights 4-1 in the semifinal and edged the Richmond Hill Stars 3-2 in double overtime in the championship game.
The Central Region encompasses all of Ontario except for the northwest.
The Atlantic Regional final featured a pair of teams who had gone through the five-team round robin undefeated. The Newfoundland and Labrador champion Maple Leafs (2-0-2) skated to a 3-2 win over the Nova Scotia champion Dartmouth Subways (3-0-1).
This is the second consecutive trip to the nationals for the Maple Leafs. They finished the regular season with the best winning percentage in the country with a 33-1-0-0 mark.
The final spot in the TELUS Cup will go to the Quebec champion. The top-ranked Sèminaire Saint-François Blizzard from Quebec City have opened up a 3-1 lead over Montreal’s Lac St-Louis Lions in their best-of-seven league championship series.