The Road to the TELUS Cup has officially come to an end.
When the puck dropped to begin the 2015-16 season last fall, there were 152 teams from coast to coast who had the chance to be crowned Canada’s national
Midget champions on April 24. But only six have survived league playoffs and regional tournaments, and will face off at the qplex.
Who will be on the ice in Quispamsis, N.B., beginning next Monday?
HOST TEAM – SAINT JOHN VITO’S
Saint John knew that no matter how its regular season and playoff run went, it would be playing in its fourth national championship, but that didn’t stop
the Vito’s from winning their way into the TELUS Cup.
They finished one point out of top spot in the N.B./P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League during the regular season before dispatching the Miramichi Rivermen
and Moncton Flyers, each in five games, to claim the New Brunswick championship and earn a trip to the Atlantic Regional.
An up-and-down preliminary round at the Atlantics in Conception Bay South, N.L. – they finished 2-2 – still got the Vito’s into the championship game, and
a showdown with the Dartmouth Major Midgets for regional bragging rights. Saint John tied the game 1-1 with 10 seconds to go and won it a minute into
overtime, becoming just the second TELUS Cup host in a decade to win league and regional championships.
ATLANTIC REGION – DARTMOUTH MAJOR MIDGETS
It’s a new name and new colours, but Dartmouth is back at Canada’s National Midget Championship for the second year in a row – the Major Midgets were known
as the Newbridge Academy Gladiators in 2015 – and the 10th time in tournament history.
Dartmouth lost a close race for first place in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League, finishing a single point behind Cole Harbour, but got the
Wolfpack when it mattered; after sweeping Pictou County and Halifax, the Major Midgets topped Cole Harbour 3-1 in the best-of-five final, earning a return
trip to the Atlantics.
A perfect preliminary round put Dartmouth in position to defend its regional title (and clinched a TELUS Cup spot, since Saint John was its championship
game opponent), but the Major Midgets fell 2-1 to the Vito’s, allowing the tying goal in the final 10 seconds and the winner early in overtime.
CENTRAL REGION – NORTH YORK RANGERS
One year after watching another team from the Greater Toronto Hockey League – the Toronto Young Nationals – win the TELUS Cup, the Rangers want to repeat
the feat and keep Canada’s National Midget Championship in the GTHL family.
The GTHL’s top-ranked offence and No. 2 defence – and a lights-out 11-1-4 record as home team – propelled North York to top spot in the regular season
before it rolled through the playoffs, winning 12 of 15 games (with one tie) to book a trip to Waterloo, Ont., for the Central Regional.
The engine kept running for North York at the regional tournament. It finished first in the round robin with a 4-1 record before adding a 3-1 semifinal win
over the Kanata Lasers and a 4-0 shutout of the Whitby Wildcats in the final, clinching its first-ever TELUS Cup appearance.
PACIFIC REGION – LLOYDMINSTER BOBCATS
Why should the RBC Cup hosts be the only team to make an appearance on the national stage this spring? The Bobcats won the AMHL regular-season title on the
back of their suffocating defence; Lloydminster allowed only 62 goals in 34 games, 18 less than any other team.
The Bobcats stuck to their game plan in the playoffs, putting on an unbelievable defensive performance; after dispatching Leduc in four games in the
quarter-finals, Lloydminster swept both Sherwood Park and Foothills, allowing only a single goal in those six games, including a complete shutout of the
Bisons in the AMHL final.
Lloydminster hosted the Valley West Hawks, the B.C. Major Midget League champions, in the Pacific Regional, and made quick work of the best-of-three
series, winning 4-1 and 5-3 to book their ticket to Quispamsis for their first-ever appearance at the TELUS Cup.
QUEBEC REGION – LIONS DU LAC ST-LOUIS
The Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec playoffs are always unpredictable, never more so than this year; the Lions, who finished a pedestrian 22-21-3 in
the regular season and were ranked 11th heading into the postseason, will represent the league at the TELUS Cup.
Lac St-Louis first eliminated the sixth-ranked Vikings de St-Eustache in four games before dispatching the Élites de Jonquière, the regular-season
champions, in four. Momentum from that upset carried through a three-game sweep of the No. 2 Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin in the semifinals, which
included 17 goals in two road wins to open that series.
Matched up against another underdog, the fifth-ranked Cantonniers de Magog, in the LHMAAAQ final, the Lions took control of the best-of-seven series with
home-ice wins in Games 3 and 4 before closing out the Cantonniers with an overtime victory in Game 6, sending Lac St-Louis to its eighth national
WEST REGION – SASKATOON CONTACTS
The unlikeliest of qualifiers for the TELUS Cup, the Contacts had plenty of time to prepare for hosting the West Regional; Saskatoon finished 10th in the
Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League and missed the playoffs, giving it 40 days between games.
The Contacts put the time off to good use, beating Kenora in its first game and upsetting the SMAAAHL champions, the Notre Dame Hounds, to clinch a spot in
the regional final. Saskatoon closed out the round robin with a loss to the Winnipeg Wild, setting up a rematch in the championship game.
A back-and-forth final needed overtime after a shorthanded penalty shot tied the game for the Contacts late in the third period, and it took a second extra
period before Saskatoon prevailed, continuing its Cinderella run and advancing to its third TELUS Cup in the last five years.