BLAINE, Minn. – The Thunder Bay Happy Time Tours major midget Kings capped off North American Prospects Hockey League play in style in Blaine, Minn., by winning each of their final four regular-season contests to finish first overall in the under-18 Elite Division standings.
Needing each of those victories to secure top spot, they wrapped up the campaign with a 15-5-0 record.
Thunder Bay finished one point ahead of the second-place Colorado Springs Tigers, who ended up 14-5-1 overall.
The Kings now earn the No. 1 seed heading into next month’s NAPHL Dixon Cup championship tournament Feb. 14-16 in Troy, Mich., as they will look to repeat as league playoff title holders.
Backed by the stalwart netminding of Eric Vanska, the major midgets produced victories over the Arizona Bobcats (5-1); Ontario Jr. Reign (6-1); Florida Alliance (4-1) and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (2-1).
Leading Thunder Bay in NAPHL U-18 scoring was Mason Bazaluk as he registered 20 points in as many games on nine goals and 11 assists.
Travis Hensrud and Trenton Morriseau were next with 16 points apiece while Mackenzie Sedgwick produced 14.
Vanska led all NAPHL goalkeepers in victories with 10.
Meanwhile, the Sportop Kings minor midget squad went 3-1 in Blaine to finish third in their nine-team division, going 7-4-1 in 12 outings.
Weekend action saw them defeat the Colorado Springs Tigers 4-1, blank Meier AAA of Michigan 1-0 in overtime, before splitting a pair of meetings with Carshield AAA from St. Louis by identical 4-2 scores.
Pacing them offensively overall was Josh Lehto who picked up 10 points in a dozen contests, including four markers.
Jett Mintenko and Kai Vanska were right behind Lehto with nine points apiece as both forwards scored five times and helped set-up four others.
Goaltenders Keenan Marks and Gunner Paradis combined for three shutouts and each finished with goals-against averages of 2.33 in helping the Kings play .625 hockey in league play.