The long wait is almost over for the Moose Jaw Generals.
Just over six weeks after their Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoff run came to an end with a first-round loss to the Regina Pat Canadians, the Generals return to the ice at Mosaic Place as the host team for the 2014 TELUS Cup.
When the puck drops Monday against the Halifax McDonald’s, it will have been 45 days since Regina’s 3-2 win on March 7 ended the Generals’ hopes of qualifying for Canada’s National Midget Championship through the front door.
After a week or so away from the game following the loss to Regina, the Generals have been practicing and scrimmaging in preparation for the team’s first-ever appearance at the national championship.
“It has been a long 45 days, but the one good thing is that we were able to get healthy. But, that is a long time to be off,” Generals head coach Ray Wareham told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “All the little things that we tried to do will hopefully pay off.”
Moose Jaw had an up-and-down start to the SMAAAHL season, sitting at 7-5-0 after a loss to Swift Current on Nov. 14 before running off a 13-game unbeaten streak (9-0-4) that pushed the Generals near the top of the league standings.
A fourth-place finish in the regular season meant a first-round match-up with No. 5 Regina, which finished just four points back of Moose Jaw.
The Pat Canadians got the early jump with a 3-1 win at Mosaic Place in Game 1, and quickly put the Generals on the brink of elimination with a 2-1 home-ice victory in Game 2.
A Donovan Neuls overtime winner in Game 3 kept Moose Jaw’s hopes alive, but the Generals saw an early 2-0 lead evaporate in Game 4, and Regina closed out the series with a 3-2 victory.
Now, a month-and-a-half later, the Generals are back in action, and if there’s a silver lining to their early elimination – other than the chance to get fully healthy – it’s that the hosts aren’t being looked at as a pre-tournament favourite.
“There are comments around that we are only here because we are the host. We are here and we are going to go play. We have nothing to lose,” Wareham said. “No one is expecting us to do anything. There have only been three host teams that have gone on to win the thing since its inception. So, we are just going to go play and whatever happens, happens.”
As Wareham mentioned, history is not on the side of the Generals. Since the tournament went to a six-team regional format in 1984, just three host teams have been crowned national champions – North Bay in 1984, Richelieu in 1990 and Calgary in 1991.
HOW THEY GOT TO MOOSE JAW
Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League
Quarter-final: lost to Regina 3-1 (1-3, 1-2, 3-2 OT, 2-3)
Record: 25-9-7-3 (4th in SMAAAHL)
Goals For: 159 (4th in SMAAAHL)
Goals Against: 114 (2nd in SMAAAHL)
Longest Winning Streak: 4 (Sept. 28-Oct. 10; Jan. 23-30)
Top 3 Scorers:
Goals For: 7
Goals Against: 10
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
solid two-way player … good on face-offs … plays with sandpaper … good on the power play … heart and soul player … loves to compete … very tough to play against … not afraid to play physical
good on the power play … clutch player … scores timely goals … quick release … good shot … will go where the goals are … good hockey instincts … smart player … doesn’t panic under pressure
mature player … leads by example … plays an honest game … tough to handle on the cycle … power forward … responsible in his own end … hard to knock off the puck … dangerous on the PP
WHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Jared Legien – Kootenay 2013 (1st round, 9th overall)
Regan Nagy – Victoria 2012 (2nd round, 27th overall)
Dawson Davidson – Kamloops 2013 (3rd round, 58th overall)
Shane Collins – Prince George 2012 (3rd round, 62nd overall)
Rykr Cole – Regina 2012 (3rd round, 63rd overall)
Caleb Riess – Red Deer 2013 (4th round, 70th overall)
Jared Dmytriw – Victoria 2013 (4th round, 83rd overall)
Grant Naherniak – Red Deer 2011 (5th round, 109th overall)
Branden Klatt – Edmonton 2013 (6th round, 130th overall)
Donovan Neuls – Seattle 2012 (8th round, 157th overall)
Kyle Sargent – Red Deer 2013 (9th round, 195th overall)
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