The road to the RBC Cup

By: Chris Messina

@cmessina85

The RBC Cup is one of the tougher trophies to win. It’s a long road, there are 127 Junior ‘A’ teams spread across 10 leagues under the Canadian Junior Hockey branch that hit the ice in the fall and embark on the long journey towards the prestigious trophy.

This year the tournament will played in Summerside, PEI from May 11-19 with the host team being the Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. The games will take place at the Consolidated Credit Union Place with the winners of Western, Central and Eastern Canada (or finalist of the Fred Page Cup if Summerside Western wins).

As we near the end of April all leagues have wrapped up their playoffs and are getting set to play regional qualification tournaments, each with the same format which is the same as the one the Memorial Cup uses. The teams play a round robin and face each other once. The top team gets a bye and the advances to the final while the bottom team goes home. The second and third seeds play each other in the tournament semi-finals, a one game playoff, and the winner advancing to the final for another one game playoff.

Here is a look at the tournaments determining which teams will get a chance to play for the RBC Cup.

The Western Canada Cup (Western Canada)

This is the first year of this tournament. Previously Pacific Canada (the British Columbia Hockey League and the Albert Junior Hockey League) and Western Canada (the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League) would each play a best-of-seven series to determine a champ and a representative in the nationals. This year Hockey Canada has reduced the number of teams in the RBC Cup by one, thus there is only one team from the four leagues that moves on to the Nationals.

BCHL: The Surrey Eagles beat the Penticton Vees in a hard fought series that lasted 6 games. After 4 games the two teams had split the series, but the Eagles pulled out back-to-back overtime wins to close out the series and ending Penticton’s chances of defending their nation championship title.

Have to give the Vees a tone of credit however, they handed Surrey twice as many loses as they had suffered in the three series it took them to get to the finals. The Eagles only loss in the BCHL playoffs came at the hands of the Langley Rivermen in Game 2 of their best-of-five series in the opening round. After that they swept Chilliwack in three and Alberni Valley in four.

The Nanaimo Clippers are the hosts of the Western Canada Cup. They are in the tournament despite being ousted in the opening round of the playoffs by Alberni Valley.

AJHL: The Brooks Bandits won the AJHL championship by beating the Spruce Grove Saints in five games. Despite the series being over as quickly as it was it wasn’t an easy win by any stretch of the imagination, games 1 and 5 were both taken by the Bandits in overtime.

The AJHL champions biggest scare came in the round 3 (their second series because they had an opening round bye being the top seed in the South Division) against the Okotoks Oilers when they were pushed to Game 7 which they took 2-1.

Their offense is well balanced as they have four of the top seven AJHL playoff scoring leaders. Cam Maclise and Patrick Lee have led the way as the two involved in a three-way tie for second, each with 19 points in 17 games. Michael Fredrick has been solid in net posting a 2.18 GAA and a save percentage of .918 to go along with his 12-5 record in the post-season. 

SJHL: The Yorkton Terriers beat the Humboldt Broncos in six games to win the league. The Terriers last two wins coming by just one goal. They took Game 5 in OT and then edged the Broncos 2-1 in Game 6. Previous to that they defeated the Melville Millionaires in six to win the league semis and the Estevan Bruins in five to open the playoffs.

MJHL: The Steinbach Pistons defeated the Dauphin Kings in six games to take this year’s crown. It wasn’t just the finals that were a battle for the Pistons as they needed 13 games through the first two rounds to reach the league championship series. In the opening round the Portage Terriers forced them to a Game 7 and then in the league semis they beat the Winnipeg Blues in 6.

The Dudley Hewitt Cup (Central Region)

The Dudley Hewitt Cup is a tournament with the champs from the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Superior International Hockey League and the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, plus a host team. The teams play a round robin with the top three advancing to a playoff, the top team gets a bye and a spot in the final while the second and third seeds play in the semis. Last year the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL won this region snapping the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s five-year winning streak. Before that the last non-OJHL team to move onto the RBC Cup was the Fort Williams North Stars of the SIJHL in 2006, needless to say this tournament has been dominated by one league.

SIJHL: The Minnesota Wilderness beat the Fort Frances Lakers in six games to advance to the Dudley Hewitt Cup. Previous to the win over the Lakers the Wilderness cruised through the SIJHL playoffs losing only once along the way to the finals. That loss was suffered in the opening round to the Thunder Bay North Stars. They then went on to sweep the Minnesota Iron Rangers in the semis.

NOJHL: The North Bay Trappers had a long grueling series against the Soo Thunderbirds that went the distance. It was the Trappers coming out on top in Game 7 punching their ticket to the Central Regionals. They had a bye in round one, then beat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in five games to reach the final. The tournament is hosted by the Trappers thus, the Soo gets an entry into the tournament as the league finalist. 

OJHL: The St. Michael’s Buzzers won the final in seven games over the New Market Hurricanes. They needed six games to beat the North York Rangers in the semis and five to beat the Georgetown Raiders in Round 1.

The Fred Page Cup (Eastern Region)

The Fred Page Cup has the same format as the Dudley Hewitt Cup. It’s played for between the winners of the Central Canada Hockey League, the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League and the Maritimes Hockey League. This tournament has a little bit more parity though as teams from all three regions competing won the tournament in recent years. There hasn’t been a representative from Quebec win since 2006 but the CCHL and MHL have split the championships up 3-3 since then. Only three times has the Eastern Region won the RBC Cup, most recently being the CCHL’s Pembroke Lumberkings in 2010.

CCHL: The Cornwall Colts needed 19 games to get through three rounds of the CCHL playoffs. They beat the Nepean Raiders (last year’s CCHL champions) in six games to win the Art Bogart Cup. It was third straight year that the Colts had made it to the finals but this time they broke through and will be in the Fred Page Cup.

QJAAAHL: College Francais de Longueuil beat the Lachine Maroons in four to sweep their way to the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League Championship. They also swept the Titan de Princeville in the opening round before the Sherbrooke Cougars forced them to a Game 7 in the semis. 

MHL: Summerside cruised through the playoffs. The only loss they suffered was to the Truro Bearcats in the final, sweeping their way past last year’s RBC Cup finalist the Woodstock Slammers in the semis and the Miramichi Timberwolves in the opening round. Truro is the host team so they will be in the tournament despite being taken care of in the final.

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