They didn’t reach their goal of going into the 2013 TELUS Cup as Central Region champions, but the host Sault Ste. Marie North Stars will still be a team to watch when the puck drops April 22 at Canada’s National Midget Championship.
After all, a team that posted a 43-4-2 combined record in regular season and playoff action and scored 376 goals in those 49 games can hardly be considered an underdog.
The North Stars rolled through the Great North Midget League regular season, putting together a 17-game winning streak from early October to early January and losing just a pair of one-goal games, one in a shootout.
They had the league’s top four scorers and won their second consecutive playoff championship without losing a game, sweeping aside Kirkland Lake, Nickel City and Kapuskasing to earn a berth at the Central Regional in Brockville, Ont.
Unbeaten in 16 entering the regional tournament, Sault Ste. Marie beat host Upper Canada in its opener before a 4-2 setback against Vaughan. A 4-4 tie with Ottawa and a 4-2 loss to London left the North Stars needing a win in their preliminary round finale against unbeaten Whitby to book a spot in the semifinals.
They came up with what was their best game of the tournament, handing the Wildcats their first loss, 6-3, and setting up a rematch in the semifinals.
“Our backs were against the wall and the kids came up big,” head coach Mike Hall told the Sault Star after the win. “We hadn't played that well up until that game and we needed to win. It was, by far, the best game we've played this week.”
With a spot in the gold medal game on the line the following day, the North Stars usually-potent offence went missing; Sault Ste. Marie managed just 18 shots on goal, although a hat trick from Ryan Vendramin helped the semifinal get to overtime.
It was not to be, however, for the North Stars, who fell 4-3 in double overtime.
“It's disappointing,” Hall told the Star after the loss. “It's unfortunate. You push it this far and then you lose in double overtime. When you get to that point in a game, it's a matter of a break here or there. And they (the Wildcats) caught a break in double overtime.”
Although his team didn’t become the first TELUS Cup host to win its regional championship since Red Deer in 2007, Hall thinks the North Stars have what it takes to compete for the national championship on home ice.
“By the end of the week we were playing really good hockey,” he said. “There are a couple of things we need to work on before the TELUS Cup. They're little things that are correctable. We'll be ready.”
HOW THEY GOT TO SAULT STE. MARIE
Great North Midget League
Quarter-final: defeated Kirkland Lake 3-0 (19-0, 14-1, 12-2)
Semifinal: defeated Nickel City 3-0 (8-0, 6-1, 10-1)
GNML championship: defeated Kapuskasing 3-0 (7-4, 5-1, 6-0)
Preliminary round: 2-2-1 – 4th place (defeated Upper Canada 5-1, lost to Vaughan 4-2, tied Ottawa 4-4, lost to London 4-2, defeated Whitby 6-3)
Semifinal: lost to Whitby 4-3 2OT
Record: 32-1-1 (1st in GNML)
Goals For: 267 (1st in GNML)
Goals Against: 73 (1st in GNML)
Longest Winning Streak: 17 (Oct. 7-Jan. 8)
Top 3 Scorers:
Goals For: 109
Goals Against: 30
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2007 – Sault Ste. Marie North Stars | 6th place | 0-5-0 | 3GF 19GA
2003 – Sault Ste. Marie North Stars | 6th place | 0-5-0 | 10GF 23GA
1999 – Sault Ste. Marie North Stars | 6th place | 0-5-0 | 14GF 33GA
1993 – Sault Ste. Marie Legion | bronze medal | 4-2-0 | 21GF 15GA
1980 – Sault Ste. Marie Legion | 6th place | 3-2-0 | 19GF 15GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
elite vision down the middle … tremendous puck handling ability … quick feet, acceleration and agility … has an arsenal of offensive weapons … plays the game with a relentless motor … can make opposition look foolish
an offensive dynamo … makes the players around him better … tremendous vision off the rush … elite offensive skill-set … great work ethic … electric quickness up ice … character leader … relentless tempo
high-end offensive skills … heavy, accurate shot … natural goal scorer … lethal in the slot … consistent … reacts quickly in lapses of opposition coverage … can beat defenders in multiple ways … fantastic hands
OHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Anthony Stefano – Peterborough 2012 (5th round, 86th overall)
Jacob Kment – Brampton 2012 (6th round, 117th overall)
Jaren Bellini – Sault Ste. Marie 2012 (6th round, 122nd overall)
Cody Caron – Niagara 2013 (7th round, 126th overall)
Ryan Vendramin – Sarnia 2012 (13th round, 255th overall)
Nick Trecroce – Sudbury 2012 – 14th round, 283rd overall)