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National Junior A championship preview

After eight months of regular-season and playoff hockey across the CJHL, the field of five teams is finally set for the 2019 National Junior A Championship, starting Saturday, May 11 at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks, Alta.

The five teams are:

  • Pacific region champion: Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)
  • West region champion: Portage Terriers (MJHL)
  • Central region champion: Oakville Blades (OJHL)
  • East region champion: Ottawa Jr. Senators (CCHL)
  • Host: Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

This is the first time the tournament is being held in Alberta since 2011 when the Pembroke Lumber Kings beat the Vernon Vipers in the final in Camrose, Alta.

This year’s tournament features 43 players committed to NCAA Division I programs.

Here is a quick look at the five teams and how they got to this point. There are also notes for each team on players, coaches and draft prospects.

You can also find the tournament schedule below. Prince George plays their first game on Sunday, May 12 against the Oakville Blades.

Brooks Bandits (Host – AJHL)

Regular season : 57-3-0 (114 points)
Playoffs: 12-3 (beat Spruce Grove Saints 4-0 in league finals)
Qualified for National Championship as host team after losing 4-2 to the Prince George Spruce Kings in the Doyle Cup regional final.

Of note:

  • The Bandits’ 57-3-0 record in the regular season was the best in AJHL history.
  • Brooks previously won a national championship in 2013.
  • William Lemay led the AJHL regular season in scoring with 90 points (32 goals, 58 assists) in 58 games as well as the playoffs with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 15 games.
  • Defenceman Luke Bast is ranked 137th on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters ahead of the 2019 draft in June.
  • Head coach Ryan Papaioannou is nominated for CJHL Coach of the Year.

Oakville Blades (OJHL)

Regular season: 44-5-2-4 (94 points)
Playoffs: 16-3 (beat Wellington Dukes 4-0 in league finals)
Qualified for National Championship by beating the Hearst Lumberjacks (NOJHL) in the championship game of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup regional tournament.

Of note:

  • This is Oakville’s third appearance at the national championships since 2008.
  • Spencer Kersten was the team’s leading scorer in the regular season with 60 points in 49 games, while Harrison Israels’ 27 goals were tops on the Blades.
  • Head coach Mike Tarantino is nominated for CJHL Coach of the Year.

Ottawa Junior Senators (CCHL)

Regular season: 43-16-0-3 (89 points)
Playoffs: 12-2 (beat Carleton Place Canadians 4-1 in league finals)
Qualified for National Championship by beating the Princeville Titans (LHJAAAQ) in the championship game of the Fred Page Cup regional tournament.

Of note:

  • Ottawa is the only returning team in the tournament. They lost in the semifinal to last year’s champion the Chilliwack Chiefs.
  • Forward Ethan Manderville is the son of former NHLer Kent Manderville.
  • Forwards Darcy Walsh and Élie Boulerice tied for the team lead in scoring during the regular season with 64 points each.

Portage Terriers (MJHL)

Regular season: 46-11-2-1 (95 points)
Playoffs: 12-3 (beat Swan Valley Stampeders 4-3 in league finals)
Qualified for National Championship by beating the Battlefords North Stars (SJHL) 4-1 in the ANAVET Cup regional final.

Of note:

  • The Terriers are the most-recent champion participating in this year’s tournament, having won the RBC Cup in 2015 (the organization’s second national title).
  • Joey Moffatt was the team’s regular-season leading scorer with 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 54 games.
  • Defenceman Owen Murray is nominated for CJHL Rookie of the Year and head coach Blake Spiller is nominated for Coach of the Year.

Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)

Regular season: 39-13-1-5 (84 points)
Playoffs 16-1 (beat Vernon Vipers 4-0 in league finals)
Qualified for National Championship by beating the Brooks Bandits 4-2 in the Doyle Cup regional final.

Of note:

  • This is the first time the Spruce Kings have won their way into the tournament. They previously participated in the RBC Cup as hosts in 2007 (lost in final).
  • Dustin Manz led the team in scoring during the regular season with 70 points and Ben Brar had the most goals with 35.
  • Goaltender Logan Neaton posted the seventh-best goals-against average in BCHL history during the regular season with a mark of 1.92. He managed to improve on those numbers in the playoffs, posting a 1.46 goals-against average as well as a .940 save percentage.
  • Layton Ahac is the highest-ranked draft prospect at the tournament, ranked at number 62 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Schedule

Saturday, May 11:

Ottawa Jr. Senators vs. Portage Terriers, 1 p.m. PDT
Oakville Blades vs. Brooks Bandits, 6 p.m. PDT

Sunday, May 12:

Prince George Spruce Kings vs. Oakville Blades, 1 p.m. PDT
Brooks Bandits vs. Portage Terriers, 6p.m. PDT

Monday, May 13:

Prince George Spruce Kings vs. Ottawa Jr. Senators, 6 p.m. PDT

Tuesday, May 14:

Portage Terriers vs. Oakville Blades, 1 p.m. PDT
Ottawa Jr. Senators vs. Brooks Bandits, 6 p.m. PDT

Wednesday, May 15:

Portage Terriers vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 6 p.m. PDT

Thursday, May 16:

Oakville Blades vs. Ottawa Jr. Senators, 1 p.m. PDT
Brooks Bandits vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 6 p.m. PDT

Saturday, May 18:

Semifinal #1, 1 p.m. PDT
Semifinal #2, 6 p.m. PDT

Sunday, May 19:

Championship, 2 p.m. PDT