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Puck ready to drop at Western Canada Cup

By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent

The field is set for the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup (WCC), and the MJHL champion and defending RBC Cup champion Portage Terriers now know who they’ll have to overcome to get a chance to defend their national title.

First up for the Terriers are the Melfort Mustangs. Over the course of five days, the Terriers play four games. When the dust settles, they hope they’ve earned themselves a trip to the RBC Cup. The format is simple: two teams from the WCC move on to the RBC.

The field sports two teams from Saskatchewan (host Estevan) and the league champs from Melfort. Alberta is represented by Brooks Bandits, while West Kelowna (BC) and Portage round out the field.

All five teams will face each other in a round-robin tournament. The top two seeds will then play off for the first spot at the RBC Cup, while the loser of that game will face the winner of the three vs. four match for the other spot. The action kicks off this Saturday (April 30), and ends with the finals on May 7 and 8.

Here then is quick look at each team and how they got to the WCC.

Melfort Mustangs
The two-time SJHL champions punched their ticket to the WCC with a six-game victory over the Flin Flon Bombers in the final. The Mustangs, who had the second-most points in the regular season, posted a 12-5 record to capture the league title. They were led offensively in the playoffs by Travis Mayan, who had 12 goals and 11 assists in 17 games. Justin Boyer (six goals, 14 assists), and Tristan Frei (eight goals, 11 assists) were also big contributors. In goal, Evan Plotnik appeared in 14 games for the Mustangs, posting a 3.22 GAA and a .902 save percentage. Richard Palmer was in the other three games, going 3-0 with a 1.25 GAA and a .968 save percentage.

Estevan Bruins
The Bruins will be well rested after falling in the quarter-finals in six games to the Nipawin Hawks (who in turns fell to the eventual champions from Melfort in a seven-game classic between the two northern rivals). Braden Oleksyn had three goals and five assists to pace Melfort’s attack, while Owen Laclare had four goals and one assist. Daniel Wapple went all six games for the Bruins, posting a 2.51 GAA and a .912 save percentage in losing to the Hawks.

Brooks Bandits
The Brooks Bandits were the class of the Alberta Junior Hockey League this year, going a stellar 12-1 en route to the title – with four shutouts. The final, which they won in five games over the Spruce Grove Saints, was very close though, as the first three games went into overtime (and one of those into double overtime). Derek Lodermeier led the team in scoring with five goals and 19 assists in 13 games. Dylan McCrory had 11 goals and six assists as the team’s top scorer. And in goal, Garrett Hughson was impressive, going 12-1 with a 1.10 GAA and a .957 save percentage.

West Kelowna Warriors
Due to the number of teams in the BCHL, they employ an interesting playoff format. The three teams survive the first two rounds face each other in a round-robin series. From there, the top two advance to the final. And that is how the West Kelowna Warriors put together a 15-9 record to win the league title, beating the Chilliwack Chiefs in six games.

To get to the final, the Warriors upset the Penticton Vees in the second round – a team that finished 22 points ahead of them in the standings. Kylar Hope led the team in scoring with 15 goals and nine assists for 24 points. Liam Blackburn (seven goals, 16 assists) and Jonathan Desbiens (15 goals, five assists) were next in team scoring. And in goal, Matthew Greenfield played the bulk of games for the Warriors, going 14-8 with a 2.25 GAA and a .932 save percentage.

Portage Terriers
Defending RBC Cup champions. And they’re making noises of wanting to repeat. The Terriers almost ran the table during the MJHL playoffs, putting together a 12-1 record,  in another dominating playoff performance to capture the Turnbull Cup.

The MJHL champs were led by league MVP Brad Bowles, who had 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 13 games. Rookies Jeremy Leipsic (seven goals, eight assists), Nik Henry (eight goals, six assists), as well as Shawn Bowles (eight goals, six assists) also had a productive post season.

In goal, the Terriers to Nathan Park, who played every minute of the post season for them, going 12-1 with a 1.87 GAA and a .924 save percentage with three shutouts.