For the fourth time since 1998 the Saskatoon Contacts are going to the National Midget Championship, winning the West Regional last weekend in Virden, Man., to book their berth in the 2012 TELUS Cup.
“We were all pretty excited (to win regionals), so hopefully we can do that one more time in Leduc,” Kolten Olynek, who was named regional tournament MVP, told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “(We'll) work pretty hard these next couple weeks and go in there with the mindset that we can win it all.”
The Contacts also appeared at the national championship in 1998 in Sudbury, Ont., finishing fourth, 2000 in Montreal, Que., taking home the bronze medal, and 2005 in Gatineau, Que., where they won the national title.
Saskatoon completed an undefeated run through the West Regional with a 5-1 victory over the host Southwest Cougars in the championship game, capping off a tournament in which the Contacts allowed just two goals in their last 11 periods of play.
Leading the defensive charge was goaltender Mack Shields, who was beaten three times in the first period of the first preliminary round game against the Winnipeg Wild before slamming the door, posting a 1.25 goals against average for the tournament.
“When we needed him, he stood in there,” Contacts head coach Marc Chartier told the StarPhoenix of his netminder. “When we were a little slow, he helped us out and made a couple of big saves and we got things going again.”
The Contacts came back to earn a 3-3 tie with the Wild in the tournament opener and scored wins over the Cougars (4-1) and Kenora Thistles (4-0) to finish atop the preliminary round standings.
They fell into an early 1-0 hole against Southwest in the final, but a shorthanded goal from Olynek brought the Contacts back to even terms after one period and goals from Rourke Chartier and Carson Stadnyk gave Saskatoon a two-goal advantage through 40 minutes.
Chartier and Colby Harmsworth rounded out the scoring in the third, with Shields picking up his second assist of the game on Harmsworth’s empty-netter to go along with his 29 saves.
Saskatoon has big footsteps to follow in at the national championship; beginning with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2004, the West Region champion has appeared in eight consecutive gold medal games, winning seven TELUS Cups, including the Contacts’ 2005 championship.
ROAD TO THE TELUS CUP: SASKATOON CONTACTS
Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League
ALL-TIME AT THE NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP: SASKATOON CONTACTS