THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay major midget Kings picked the game-winning goal and an assist from Travis Hensrud to break a third-period tie to help them defeat the Kenora Thistles 3-1 Friday to capture the Hockey Northwestern Ontario AAA midget District Championship in front of a large crowd at Fort William First Nation Arena.
With the result, Thunder Bay takes the best-of-five series 3-0 and will now move to represent HNO at the TELUS Cup West Regional, April 4-7, in Tisdale, Sask.
An early two-man advantage allowed Kenora to commence the scoring Friday, compliments of Cooper Witherspoon, who put one past Thunder Bay netminder Eric Vanska.
The Kings drew level 3:30 into the second stanza as Trenton Morriseau stuffed one in for the side of the net to knot the affair at 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Thunder Bay’s special teams clicked early in the final frame as they connected twice on the power play, in rapid succession, to go up by a pair.
A Hensrud one-timer put the Kings up 2-1 with his side up two skaters before he sent a crisp cross-crease pass over to Mason Bazaluk to extend the cushion moments later with 14 minutes remaining.
Vanska and his teammates did the rest defensively to secure the series sweep and earn a berth to the West Regional.
There, Thunder Bay will join the host Tisdale Trojans and the winners of the Manitoba Midget Hockey League and the Saskatchewan AAA Midget League in the four-team event.
In the MMHL, the Winnipeg Wild are up 1-0 in a best-of-five final against the Brandon Wheat Kings while the Saskatoon Blazers and defending West Regional and national champion Notre Dame Hounds set to commence their best-of-five title match-up Saturday night in Saskatoon.
The West Regional winner will earn a berth to the TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget Hockey Championship, April 22-28, at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay.
Should the TELUS Cup-host Kings prevail at the regional, then that event finalist would also earn a berth to the nationals in the Lakehead.
TELUS Cup ticket packages remain on sale at HockeyCanada.ca/tickets.
Photo credit: Hockey Northwestern Ontario
HNO AAA Midget District Championship
Thunder Bay major midget Kings vs. Kenora Thistles
Kings win best-of-five series 3-0
Game 1: Thunder Bay 5 Kenora 4 (OT)
Game 2: Thunder Bay 4 Kenora 1
Game 3: Thunder Bay 3 Kenora 1
Manitoba Midget Hockey League championship series
Winnipeg Wild vs. Brandon Wheat Kings
Winnipeg leads best-of-five series 1-0
Game 1: Winnipeg 6 Brandon 3
Game 2: Saturday, March 23 @ Brandon 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Monday, March 25 @ Winnipeg 8 p.m.
Game 4*: Wednesday, March 27 @ Brandon 8:30 p.m.
Game 5*: Friday, March 29 @ Winnipeg 8 p.m.
* – if necessary
Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League
Saskatoon Blazers vs. Notre Dame Hounds
Game 1: Saturday, March 23 @ Saskatoon 9:30 p.m.
Game 2: Monday, March 25 @ Notre Dame 9:30 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, March @ Saskatoon 9:30 p.m.
Game 4*: Friday, March 29 @ Notre Dame 9:30 p.m.
Game 5*: Sunday, March 31 @ Saskatoon 9:30 p.m.
* – if necessary
TELUS Cup West Regional
Tisdale Trojans (Host) (SAAAMHL)
Hockey Northwestern Ontario champion: Thunder Bay Kings
Manitoba Midget Hockey League champion: Winnipeg Wild or Brandon Wheat Kings
Saskatchewan AAA Midget Hockey League champion: Saskatoon Blazers or Notre Dame Hounds
Thursday, April 4
Game 1: Saskatoon or Notre Dame vs. Winnipeg or Brandon 6 p.m.
Game 2: Tisdale vs. Thunder Bay 9:30 p.m.
Friday, April 5
Game 3: Thunder Bay vs. Winnipeg or Brandon 6 p.m.
Game 4: Saskatoon or Notre Dame vs. Tisdale 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 6
Game 5: Thunder Bay vs. Saskatoon or Notre Dame 2 p.m.
Game 6: Tisdale vs. Winnipeg or Brandon 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 7
Final: 2nd round robin vs. 1st round robin T.B.A. 4 p.m.
TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget Hockey Championship
Thunder Bay, Ont.
All games at the Fort William Gardens
Monday, April 22
Central vs. Atlantic 12 p.m.
Quebec vs. West 4 p.m.
Thunder Bay Kings vs. Pacific 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 23
Quebec vs. Atlantic 12 p.m.
Central vs. Pacific 4 p.m.
West vs. Thunder Bay Kings 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 24
Pacific vs. Quebec 12 p.m.
Atlantic vs. West 4 p.m.
Thunder Bay Kings vs. Central 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 25
West vs. Pacific 12 p.m.
Central vs. Quebec 4 p.m.
Atlantic vs. Thunder Bay Kings 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 26
Central vs. West 11 a.m.
Atlantic vs. Pacific 3 p.m.
Thunder Bay Kings vs. Quebec 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 27
Semifinal No. 1: 2 p.m.
Semifinal No. 2: 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 28
Bronze medal game: 1 p.m.
Gold/Silver medal game: 6:30 p.m.
All start times ET