The largest field in the history of Canada’s National Junior A Championship
Ten teams have confirmed their spots at the 2022 Centennial Cup, presented
by Tim Hortons, with the Pickering Panthers claiming the final berth when
they eliminated the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in Game 7 of the Ontario Junior
Hockey League final on Sunday night.
All nine league champions from across the Canadian Junior Hockey League
will be on the ice in Estevan, Sask., with a chance to be the last team
standing and win a national title on May 29.
Let’s take a look at the contenders…
HOST TEAM – ESTEVAN BRUINS
The hosts will welcome the nation’s best teams as SJHL champions. Estevan
edged out Humboldt by a single point in the regular season before embarking
on a playoff run that included just four losses in 16 games – and three of
those came in a hard-fought seven-game series against Flin Flon in the SJHL
final. The Bruins are built for a 200-foot game; they led the league in
goals for (262) and against (124).
Recent history is on the Bruins’ side – the last five host teams have all
reached the championship game, and four of those (including the last three
– Cobourg, Chilliwack and Brooks) won the national title on home ice.
ALBERTA JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – BROOKS BANDITS
The champs are (still) here. The Bandits continued their dynastic run,
winning the AJHL title for the sixth time since 2012 and advancing to the
national tournament for the fifth time in that span. Brooks was
historically good in the regular season, winning 52 of 60 games – tied for
the third most in league history (it also owns the top two spots) – before
sweeping Canmore and Okotoks, and downing Spruce Grove in five games in the
Although it has been three years since the Bandits claimed the national
title on home ice, they will look to become just the fourth team to go
back-to-back, and the first since the Vernon Vipers in 2009-10.
CENTRAL CANADA HOCKEY LEAGUE – OTTAWA JR. SENATORS
They’re back. The Jr. Senators made it three trips to Canada’s National
Junior A Championship in as many tries with a dominant run in the CCHL.
After posting the league’s best regular-season record (finishing 11 points
clear of any other team), Ottawa tore through the playoffs with just a
single loss in 13 games, finishing with a four-game sweep of Hawkesbury to
claim its sixth CCHL title.
The Jr. Senators are the first team to qualify for three-consecutive
national tournaments since their CCHL rivals, the Carleton Place Canadians,
from 2014-16; they’ll look to finally get past the semifinals after
one-goal losses to the host team in 2018 (Chilliwack) and 2019 (Brooks).
LIGUE DE HOCKEY JUNIOR AAA DU QUÉBEC – COLLÈGE FRANÇAIS LONGUEUIL
Another year, another championship for Collège Français, which claimed the
LHJAAAQ title for the sixth time since 2011. After finishing with the best
record in the regular season at 34-4-3, Longueuil hit an early speedbump in
the playoffs, going down 2-1 to underdog Granby in the opening round,
before rebounding to win 11 of its final 13 postseason games and finally
punch its ticket to the national championship.
Just the fifth team from Quebec to compete for a national title since 2000,
it’ll be the second appearance for Longueuil – known then as the Sieurs,
the team won league and regional titles and reached the Centennial Cup
semifinals in 1990.
MANITOBA JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – DAUPHIN KINGS
The Kings played second-fiddle to Steinbach most of the season, finishing
No. 2 in wins, goals for, goals against and penalty kill, but they were
better than the Pistons when it mattered most. Dauphin outlasted its rivals
in a back-and-forth MJHL final that went the distance, a series that saw
the teams alternate victories. Brayden Dube was the Game 7 hero, scoring
with 8:27 left to give the Kings a 2-1 win and send them to Estevan.
It’s the third time the Kings have advanced to Canada’s National Junior A
Championship – in 2010 (when they hosted) they topped the
preliminary-round standings before falling to Vernon in the final, and in 2014 they again finished first in the prelims, this time losing to Carleton Place in the semifinals.
MARITIME HOCKEY LEAGUE – SUMMERSIDE WESTERN CAPITALS
The Western Capitals were the class of the MHL from start to finish this
season, dropping just four of their 38 regular-season games in regulation
time and losing just twice in the playoffs – both in overtime. It’s tough
to pinpoint just what made Summerside so good; its offence scored 206 goals
in 38 games (50 more than any other MHL team), its defence allowed just 101
and its power play clicked at a 32.6% success rate.
The 1997 national champions make a fifth trip to the tournament, but just
the second outside of their home rink – the Western Capitals reached the
final in 1989, 1997 and 2013 as host, and finished fifth in 2009.
NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – SOO THUNDERBIRDS
The Thunderbirds earned their place in Estevan by pulling off one of the
rarest feats in hockey – they came back from a 3-0 series deficit in the
NOJHL final to beat Hearst, winning Game 6 and Game 7 in overtime. That
they’re the last team standing in Northern Ontario isn’t a surprise; Soo
had the league’s best record in the regular season, and it rolled through
Blind River and the Soo Eagles without losing a game in the first two
It'll be the third trip to Canada’s National Junior A Championship for the
Thunderbirds, who lost in the semifinals in 2012 in Humboldt, Sask., and
missed out on the playoffs in 2015 in Portage la Prairie, Man.
ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – PICKERING PANTHERS
It’s been a long time coming, but the Panthers will finally play for the
biggest prize in Junior A hockey. Pickering posted its best regular season
ever, finishing just a single point behind the Toronto Jr. Canadiens,
before romping through the first three rounds of the playoffs, sweeping
past Stouffville, Collingwood and Milton. It then outlasted the Jr.
Canadiens in seven games in the OJHL final, punching its ticket to Estevan.
The Panthers will look to end a long drought by the champions of the CJHL’s
largest league – no OJHL titlist has claimed Canada’s National Junior A
Championship since the Aurora Tigers in 2007.
SASKATCHEWAN JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – FLIN FLON BOMBERS
They’ll be the only team in Estevan without a league title, but that
doesn’t mean the Bombers should be overlooked. Despite finishing its season
with just three wins in its last 12 games, Flin Flon got hot at the right
time – it knocked out Battlefords in six games in the opening round of the
playoffs despite losing the first two, and handled Humboldt in five before
falling to Estevan in a seven-game thriller in the SJHL final.
Few teams can match the history of the Bombers; they date back to 1939 at
various levels. The current iteration has been around since 1984, making
national championship appearances in 1993 and 2001 (as host).
SUPERIOR INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE – RED LAKE MINERS
COVID-19 cancellations meant they played only 37 games in the regular
season, but a lack of game action didn’t seem to affect the Miners come
playoffs. After finishing the regular season with the SIJHL’s second-best
points percentage, Red Lake downed the Dryden Ice Dogs in six games in the
semifinals before winning the first three against the Kam River Fighting
Walleye, eventually claiming its first SIJHL title in six games.
The Miners are just the third team from the SIJHL to ever earn a place at
the national championship, and the first since the Wisconsin Wilderness made their run to the semifinals in 2013.