r t e c  final 6 18

From 100 to 6

Field set for 2018 Esso Cup

Jason La Rose
April 19, 2018

It took 62 days and 179 games from Shawnigan Lake, B.C., to Mount Pearl, N.L., but the Road to the Esso Cup is complete.

The Pionnières de Lanaudière secured the sixth and final spot on Sunday, edging the defending Quebec champion Harfangs du Triolet to clinch their first-ever berth in Canada’s National Female Midget Championship. They will join the Northern Selects (Atlantic), Brampton Canadettes (Ontario), Saskatoon Stars (West), St. Albert Slash (Pacific) and host Metro Boston Pizza in Bridgewater, N.S.

Here’s a quick look at the six teams who will compete for a national title beginning April 22.

The hosts have had plenty of time to prepare for their fourth appearance at Canada’s National Female Midget Championship; after an up-and-down regular season that left them third in the NSFMHL, they were knocked out of the playoffs on Feb. 25 with a heart-breaking shootout loss in Game 5 of their semifinal series with Cape Breton. That means 56 days will have elapsed between meaningful games for Metro when it takes on Northern in an all-Atlantic match-up to open the Esso Cup.

The three-time regional champions have a little history on their side; Metro is the only Atlantic team to ever reach the semifinals at the national championship, falling in the bronze medal game at the 2012 tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The Selects have been a team on a mission from the first drop of the puck way back in September; Northern has lost just twice in 34 games all season, including a perfect 11-0 mark in the playoffs. After sweeping aside East Hants and Cape Breton to claim its first NSFMHL title, it was absolutely dominant at the Atlantic Regional, outscoring its opponents 35-8 in five games and punching its ticket to Bridgewater with a comfortable 7-1 win over the Northern Stars.

Recent Esso Cups have not been kind to Atlantic Canada; since Metro Boston Pizza earned a semifinal berth in 2012, teams from the region have gone a combined 2-0-1-17 (W-OTW-OTL-L), and have not finished above sixth place.

No team has a longer road within the road than the Ontario champion, who this year had to outlast 44 other teams to earn the right to represent the province. The Canadettes, who went 18-3-1 to top the West Division in the LLFHL before falling to Waterloo in the division final, beat out Guelph and North Halton in playdowns to clinch a trip to provincials before surviving a six-games-in-three-days sprint, capped by a 2-1 win over Oakville to win OWHA gold and advance to the Esso Cup.

Brampton will try and continue an impressive streak – Ontario teams have won a medal at each and every one of the first nine national championships: three gold (Thunder Bay, 2010; Sudbury, 2015; Brantford, 2016), three silver and three bronze.

The champs are back … but just barely. St. Albert put together another solid season in the AFHL, earning a second-place finish behind Rocky Mountain. Facing the top-seeded Raiders in the provincial final, the Slash were moments away from elimination before tying the game with 6.9 seconds left and winning it in overtime to defend its Alberta title. St. Albert then went the distance with Greater Vancouver in the Pacific Regional, eking out a 1-0 win in the deciding Game 3 to earn a return trip to the Esso Cup.

The Slash are the first defending national champions to have the chance to go back-to-back, and they will try and repeat their record-setting performance from a year ago; St. Albert was the first team to win all seven games at the Esso Cup, allowing just seven goals in the process.

Playoff hockey is often about getting hot at the right time, and the Pionnières are proof of that. A middle-of-the pack team in the LHFDQ during the regular season (they finished seventh of 14 teams), Lanaudière reached the semifinals of the league playoffs before going a perfect 6-0 at the Coupe Dodge provincial tournament. The Pionnières capped their run with wins over Lac St-Louis South, Estrie and Triolet – three teams they had not beaten during the regular season.

Lanaudière is the seventh different Quebec representative in as many appearances, and will look to become the fourth in a row to reach the gold medal game, following LHFDQ Nord (2013), Richelieu (2016) and Triolet (2017).

The low point of the Stars’ season came during a four-game losing streak from Dec. 17-Jan. 7. Why is that important? Because they hadn’t lost before that, and they haven’t lost since. Saskatoon finished the SFMAAAHL regular season with 11 straight wins, went six-for-six against Regina and Prince Albert to claim the league title, and swept aside the upstart Eastman Selects in two straight to win the West Regional and advance to the Esso Cup for the third time in the last four years.

The Stars have plenty of experience on their roster; five players will compete in a third national championship – Saskatoon won bronze in 2015 and finished fourth a year later – and another four are making a second trip.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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