THUNDER BAY – The field is now set and the Thunder Bay Kings now know who their opponents will be when the all-Ontario AAA bantam championship begins next Monday at the Fort William Gardens.
Here’s a breakdown on the seven clubs that will be competing in the five-day event that runs March 27-31 at the Gardens in Thunder Bay.
THUNDER BAY KINGS: While serving as host of the bantam provincials along with Hockey Northwestern Ontario and the Thunder Bay Minor Hockey Association, the Kings also earned their way to the championship after winning the HNO district title over the Fort Frances Canadians.
In 63 tournament and showcase games as well Thunder Bay Minor midget AA regular season competition, the bantam Kings posted a solid 32-20-10-1 overall record.
That included winning the North American Prospects Hockey League Future Prospects title back in December.
Among those leading the club is high-scoring forward Michel Stubbs, who shared the NAPHL Futures events in scoring with 17 points, including 15 goals, which topped all skaters.
Owen Perala and Nikolas Campbell meanwhile shared fifth in NAPHL FP numbers with 11 points apiece.
Koonor Kuuskivi was the leading point getter among defencemen with seven in nine Futures Prospects contests.
The Kings are backstopped by goaltenders Connor Lemieux and Stephan Bourgeois.
FORT FRANCES CANADIANS (HNO): The HNO rep at the bantam provincials will be the Fort Frances Canadians.
The Canadians are carded as a AAA, but played most of the year with players primarily from Fort Frances in AA tournaments in HNO and A level tournaments in Minnesota.
Fort Frances won the HNO bantam AA crown with a 2-1 triumph over Dryden in the Tournament of Champions and also claimed the Norwest Stars AA tourney in February.
The club also uses affiliate players from Kenora, Dryden, Eagle River, Atikokan and Ear Falls to play as a AAA team.
They were defeated by Thunder Bay in the HNO district championship falling 4-2 in the opener and 6-1 in the finale in the best-of-three set.
NORTH BAY TRAPPERS (NOHA): The Trappers finished first in the four-team Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League with a 22-5-1 regular season record.
In the playoffs the swept the Timmins Eagles in semifinal action before going on to do likewise against the Nickel City Sons in a trio of low-scoring contests that North Bay won by scores of 3-1, 2-1 and 2-1 to take the best-of-five final.
Joseph Jordan was an offensive force for the Trappers averaging over a point-per-game with 71 in 33 outings on 28 goals and 43 assists.
North Bay met the Kings back in September during an AAA Showcase in Sudbury and the Trappers skated away with a 4-1 victory.
CAMBRIDGE HAWKS (ALLIANCE): The Cambridge bantam AAA Hawks won the Alliance championship after sweeping the London Jr. Knights in four straight games to take the best-of-seven affair in convincing style.
The Hawks soared to an impressive 50-11-5 record in regular season, play downs and tournament play in 2016-17.
Cambridge also won a pair of tourneys taking the title in both the Peterborough Icefest in October and the Vaughan Kings Classic in December.
In the Alliance play downs, they were a perfect 10-0.
TORONTO MARLBOROS (GTHL): The talent-laden Marlboros captured the GTHL crown in dramatic fashion defeating the rival Mississauga Reps 3-2 in overtime Sunday to win the hard-fought eight-point series 8-6.
Toronto also had another stiff test in GTHL semifinal action as they got by the Toronto Jr. Canadiens 9-7 in that first team to eight points affair.
Prior to that the swept the Don Mills Flyers in four straight in quarter-final play.
The Marlboros finished second to Mississauga in regular season play, just one point in arrears after going 26-5-2 overall.
They also won tournaments in both Edmonton and Ottawa earlier this season as well as Toronto Red Wings Early Bird tournament where they defeated Cambridge 4-2 in the final.
YORK-SIMCOE EXPRESS (OMHA): The Express punched their ticket to Thunder Bay after winning the OMHA AAA bantam title Sunday by defeating the Niagara North Stars 4-2 on home ice in the championship game.
York-Simcoe and Niagara finished tied for first in the round robin at the five-team OMHA’s before the Express went on the secure the title.
They swept Central Ontario in three straight in quarter-final action.
Since January 1, York-Simcoe has posted an impressive 20-2-3 record.
One of their tie games was against the Kings during the Silver Stick International in Port Huron, Mich., where the two sides skated to a 3-3 draw.
OTTAWA JR. 67’S (HEO): Ottawa claimed the Hockey Eastern Ontario title after going the distance with the Eastern Ontario Wild before pulling out a series win in the fifth and deciding game in their best-of-five set.
Leading the Jr. 67’s offensively was Andrew Aboumossa who paced all skaters in the playoffs with 15 points in 10 postseason games, including eight goals.
Sean McGurn led the club in the regular season with 45 points on 18 tallies and 27 assists.
Thunder Bay Kings all-Ontario AAA bantam championship schedule
All games at the Fort William Gardens
Monday, March 27
Kings vs. Ottawa Jr. 67’s (HEO) 11 a.m.
North Bay Trappers (NOHA) vs. Kings 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 28
Kings vs. Cambridge Hawks (Alliance) 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 29
Kings vs. Toronto Marlboros (GTHL) 1 p.m.
Fort Frances Canadians (HNO) vs. Kings 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 30
York-Simcoe Express (OMHA) vs. Kings 6 p.m.
Friday, March 31
Semifinal 1: 4th round robin vs. 1st round robin 9 a.m.
Semifinal 2: 3rd round robin vs. 2nd round robin 11:30 a.m.
Bronze Medal Game: 5:30 p.m.
Gold/Silver Medal Game: 8 p.m.
With files from Trevor Hosanna, Executive Director; Hockey Northwestern Ontario