The all-time winningest team in National Junior A Championship history and a pair of first-timers highlight the five teams who will take to the ice in Dauphin, Man. beginning this Saturday at the 2010 RBC Cup.
The Dauphin Kings and La Ronge Ice Wolves knew they would both have a shot at a national championship even before their Anavet Cup series began, but the teams still slugged it out in a five-game series, with the Kings claiming West Region bragging rights. Both the Kings and Ice Wolves will make their national tournament debut at Credit Union Place. The Kings were unchallenged in the MJHL this season, losing just once in the postseason on their way to their first league title since 1993. Dauphin is a remarkable 38-2-1 on home ice this season, something that could bode well for it once the 2010 RBC Cup begins.
The Ice Wolves won their first-ever SJHL championship as the seventh ranked of 12 teams in the playoffs, and were within three seconds of a 2-0 series lead on the mighty Kings before faltering. Don’t be surprised to see the Ice Wolves play a little overtime during the 2010 RBC Cup – 11 of their 26 playoff games needed extra time to decide.
The Vernon Vipers are back to defend their national title, looking to become the first team since, well, themselves to win back-to-back RBC Cups – the Vipers were national champions in 1990 and 1991, when they were known as the Lakers. Thirteen players are back from the team that beat Humboldt 2-0 in the national championship game one year ago in Victoria, B.C.
Despite losing just nine of 60 regular season games, the Vipers were pushed to the limit twice in the playoffs, needing seven games to beat the Powell River Kings for the BCHL title, and seven more to eliminate the Spruce Grove Saints to win the Doyle Cup for Pacific Region supremacy. Vernon led the Saints three games to one, but needed a three-goals-in-2:08 spurt in Game 7 to ensure they’d have a chance to repeat.
The Oakville Blades added three trophies to their collection en route to Dauphin, taking the OJAHL championship with a thrilling seven-game victory over Kingston – all seven games were decided by one goal, four in overtime, including Game 7 – the Buckland Cup as OHA champions after knocking off the Newmarket Hurricanes in six games, and the Dudley Hewitt Cup as Central Region champions.
The Blades ran undefeated through the regional tournament, beating the Abitibi Eskimos (NOJHL), Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) and Fort William North Stars (SIJHL) to reach the final, where they won a 2-1 nailbiter over the North Stars to advance to Dauphin. It’s the second time in three years the Blades will play for the national championship – they missed the semifinals in Cornwall, Ont. in 2008 after a 1-3 round-robin record.
The Brockville Braves have advanced to the 2010 RBC Cup despite not winning their league championship. Owners of a CJHL-record 26-game winning streak during the regular season, the Braves were dropped in five games by the Pembroke Lumber Kings in the CJHL final, but got a second life as hosts of the Fred Page Cup.
Undefeated in the round robin after wins over Woodstock (MJAHL), Pembroke and Terrebonne (LHJAAAQ), Brockville once again faced off with the Lumber Kings in the regional final, romping to a 5-1 victory and their first trip to the RBC Cup since 1998. The Braves are still looking for their first national-tournament win – they went 0-4 in Nanaimo, B.C. in ’98.