MINOR MIDGET AAA CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW Five teams squaring off for Minor Midget AAA crown

Riley Girard

 

RICHMOND HILL, ON: The Ontario Minor Hockey Association Minor Midget AAA Championship presented by CCM will be decided this weekend (March 4-6) in a tournament that features five of the top teams from the ETA and SCTA. The York-Simcoe Express, Southern Tier Admirals, Barrie Jr. Colts, Clarington Toros and Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs are set to face off to determine the best minor midget team in the OMHA.

 

The Toros are the host team after winning the Bantam championship last season. Of these five teams, York-Simcoe is the team to most recently win (2010) the minor midget group.

 

The five clubs will participate in a round robin to determine seeding. The first and second place teams will then face off for the gold medal to crown the 2015-2016 AAA Minor Midget Champion while the third and fourth seeded squads will play for the bronze medal. The team that finishes in fifth place in the round robin will be eliminated. The top four teams will all earn a berth to the OHL Cup.

 

MINOR MIDGET AAA CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

 

Barrie Jr. Colts

The team battled through a first round matchup with the North Central Predators before sweeping the Kingston Jr. Frontenacs. The Colts are a deep team that work hard on the puck and have arguably the top goalie in this tournament. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Colts are hot at the right time.

 

Jacob Ingham is one of the best goalies in the ETA this season. In an age where so many goalies play the butterfly technique or a hybrid of it, one of the issues with younger goalies that may lack size and strength is to keep their upper body erect enough to cover the top half of the net – Ingham is very good at doing this. In addition, his athleticism stands out, he anticipates well, and has good rebound control. He finished the season with a sparking 9-3-3 record while a goals against average of below 1.00.

 

Forward Barret Kirwin is an excellent example of how you do not need to be big to make an impact in hockey these days. Coming in at 5′ 7″ and 180 lbs., he possesses high-end skill and generates a lot of offence for his team. Add great skating ability, high hockey IQ, and a good work ethic. Kirwin led the Jr. Colts in scoring and finished 10th in goal scoring in the ETA.

 

If his teammate Kirwin is a great example of how small players have a place in the game in this day and age, Dennis Busby is an even better example of the altered role of defencemen – how they are called on to transition, lead the attack, and generate offence. He has all the tools needed to be a successful defenceman – he is a very good skater, has high-end skill, thinks and processes the game very well and is deceivingly physical. He will be an early pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. Having recently returned from the World Youth Winter Olympics in Norway where he won a silver as a member of Team Canada hockey team, he is looking to add a gold to his hardware collection this weekend in Bowmanville.

 

Clarington Toros

The hosts of the tournament should feel comfortable having home ice advantage. Clarington plays a physical brand of hockey as evident in its penalty minutes. It will be important for them to walk the line between hard-nosed hockey and being disciplined or it could cost them.

 

An offensive catalyst on his team, Riley Girard has very good skills, good hockey smarts, and an excellent work ethic. He brings it every shift and makes the players around him much better. He tied for the team lead in points with 40 while accumulating a whopping 83 minutes in penalties.

 

Mason Snell, a solid, all-around defenceman, was outstanding last season at the OMHA Bantam AAA Championships and then in the OHF Championships where he scored five points in seven games. Possessing very good skills, tremendous skating ability and a mean streak, he projects to be a top-4 defenceman at the OHL level someday. Clarington is a hard team to play against, they work hard and are really physical. He is definitely a microcosm of this and a big factor towards it.

 

The captain of his team, Mitchell Doyle is a very good all-around defenceman. He is very good in practically every area of the game – he has good size, a high hockey intellect and good skills. The ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for the Toros, he provides a great transition game from the back end and at the same time gives up very little offensively to the opposition.

 

York-Simcoe Express

Possibly the best team in the tournament, the Express led the ETA in goal differential by a wide margin. They have the top four point producers in the ETA. The Express are a fun team to watch and play an up-tempo, skilled game.

 

An offensively gifted rearguard, Carter Robertson lead the ETA in defenceman scoring with 36 points in 31 games played. He has all the tools to be an impact player at the OHL level. He has good size, skates very well, has an excellent skill set, and he processes the game very well. He continues to get better and as he continues to fill-out his 6′ 1″ frame and projects to be a top-pairing defenceman at the next level.

 

In a league with a plethora of offensive dynamos this season, Cameron Hillis may very well be the best of the lot. Blessed with elite level skill and hockey sense, he generates offence on a shift-by-shift basis. The leader in points in the ETA, Hillis will be a top pick in the OHL Priority Selection and projects to be a top point getter at the Major Junior level.

 

Playing up last year with the 1999-year-birth Express, Ian Vucko is a main contributor to a team that was one-goal away from winning the OMHA Minor Midget AAA Championship. Participating this year in his own age group, he has picked up where he left off as a main contributor on a York Simcoe team loaded with talent. He has a lot of tools – high-end skill, very good hockey sense, and a great work ethic. In addition, he plays both sides of the puck effectively.

 

Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs

The Bulldogs finished the year at the top of the SCTA standings. Hamilton boasts three strong lines and a deep roster that won’t allow the opponent to take any shifts off. They led the SCTA in goals scored but have no player in the top five, meaning the offence is spread around and everyone contributes.

 

At close to 6′ 0″ and possessing high-end ability, Jack Wismer finished second in points and is one of the best OHL prospects in the SCTA this season. Like many of the great ones, what separates him is his hockey intellect and ability to anticipate and process the game in a timely and efficient manner. He is one of the main ingredients on a powerhouse Jr. Bulldogs team and will need to have a big weekend if the Jr. Bulldogs want to taste gold on Sunday.

 

Jackson Doherty is probably the toughest forward to play against in the SCTA. He skates very well, competes hard, and hits like train. In addition, he has very good skills, makes plays with pace, and wants to make a difference every time he is on the ice. He gets the opposition off their game with his chippy play and capitalizes on it with his ability.

 

Tanner Sheppard, who started playing goaltender when he was in Peewee, has a lot of upside. He is huge at 6′ 3″ and 210 lbs. but he moves like a goalie half of his size. Calm and cool in the net, he is very good at using his size by consistently taking the correct angles on shooters. In addition, his butterfly is technically sound. He finished with a staggering 14-1-3 record and a goals-against average of 0.97.

 

Southern Tier Admirals

The Admirals will need to rally together as the team will be without arguably its best player (Daylon Groulx). Southern Tier is a confident group and are heating up after sweeping the Niagara North Stars in three games.

 

Blair Coffin was masterful between the pipes for his team this season. One of the biggest goalies in his age group at 6′ 4″ and 220 lbs., he moves very well for his size. One of the biggest issues of goaltenders that play the butterfly especially at this age is leaving too much room up high, he has the ability to eliminate this due to the fact that when he is in his butterfly and keeping is back erect his shoulders are at the crossbar. Coffin had 12 wins on the year and a goals against average of 1.08.

 

Owen Cole is another big contributor to the Admirals. Not only is he excellent on the offence, he is a very good two-way player and does not give up much defensively. He skates very well and has a high-level of hockey intellect.

 

Tyler Angle is another great example of how size is not a big factor in the game these days. Blessed with high-end skill and an excellent compete level, he is constantly generating offence for his team. He never backs down and does whatever he can to put the puck in the back of the net. In addition to this, he has a high hockey IQ and processes the game far ahead of his peer group. Angle led his team in goals (19) and points (32).