Quebec League Earns Respect

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Quebec League earns respect with victory in first Central Canada All-Star Challenge

The Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League showed their players deserve more respect during the first Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) All-Star Challenge last week in Smiths Falls.

After failing to have a single player named to Team Canada East for the sixth World Junior A Challenge tournament in British Columbia in November, the Quebec entry in last week’s competition emerged victorious.

It was poetic justice as their win came against a team from the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). All of the Team East coaches for the international tournament in November were from OJHL teams and they made the player selections.

The Quebec All-Stars won four of five games in Smiths Falls including a convincing 5-1 triumph in the tournament championship game against the OJHL North last Thursday night (Dec. 29). Their only loss was a 3-2 shootout defeat at the hands of the CCHL Robinson Division All-Stars in round-robin play Tuesday, Dec. 27.

The three-day venture involved eight teams including one from each CCHL division and four from the 27-team OJHL based mainly in Central Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. The other teams were all-star squads from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and what is officially known as League de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec.

Both CCHL entries made it to the semi-finals. But both lost Thursday to miss the tournament final.

In the first semi the Robinson Division, who was a perfect 3-0 in the round-robin portion of the event, fell 2-1 in a shootout to the OJHL North team who went 2-1 in the round robin. The second game saw the Quebec All-Stars double the Yzerman Division 4-2 to qualify for the final. Both were 2-1 in the preliminary round played Tuesday and Wednesday. Details of all three playoff games appear in the tournament summary later in this story!

The Robinson Division team included eight members of Carleton Place Canadians and two each from host Smiths Falls Bears and Kemptville 73’s. Canadians’ participants were forwards Shayne Morrissey, Jay Llewelyn, Daniel Kolenda and Ben Murphy along with defencemen Christian Weidauer, Dustin Darou (a former Smiths Falls star) and Theo Hannah and goalie Joe Yetman. The Smiths Falls players were forward Matt Robertson and defenceman Tyler Akeson while Kemptville sent forward Josh Pitt and blueliner Ben Hutton.

Sheldon Keefe, coach of the defending national champion Pembroke Lumber Kings (they are also five-time defending CCHL champions) coached the Yzerman team while Cornwall Colts’ head coach Ian MacInnis (Colts were last year’s runners-up in the CCHL) guided the Robinson squad.

FAIR ATTENDANCE

A total of 2,844 fans took in the action at the new, state-of-the-art Smiths Falls Memorial Community Centre. That’s an average of 189 for each of the 15 games played. A total of 154 watched the final game Thursday night. The largest single game attendance was for Game 9 on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 28) when 289 fans watched the Robinson All-Stars defeat OJHL East 5-3. The Robinson squad included Smiths Falls, Carleton Place and Kemptville players.

As a warm-up for Thursday night’s final, prospects (rookies) from the Robinson and Yzerman Divisions faced off in a late afternoon encounter. The Yzerman recorded a one-sided 7-2 win, outshooting their opponents 24-17. Forward Matt Allan of Cumberland Grads led the winners with two goals and an assist. The Smiths Falls line of Chris Maniccia, Dean Galasso and Karson McCartney combined for the first Robinson score in the opening period. Maniccia, who has 10 regular season markers, triggered the goal.

In the main all-star tournament the participating teams were split into two, four-team divisions with the first two days devoted to round-robin play. In something of a twist, all of the round-robin games were comprised of two, 20 minute halves instead of three 20 minute periods. The semi-finals followed the same format but Thursday night’s final featured the usual three period trend. Overtime games were decided in shootouts.

CCHL president Kevin Abrams told the media the event will be assessed to see if the same format should be employed in future. He says the shortened games were designed to allow the competition to be held in a three-day window.

Many Junior A teams resumed their regular season schedules on Dec. 30, the day after the Smiths Falls competition ended. In fact Bears hosted Carleton Place in one of two CCHL games Friday night.

The CCHL has pioneered a number of initiatives aimed at giving the league and Junior A hockey in general more exposure.

Many years ago they opted for a season opening showcase event during which every team in the league plays two regular season games in the same location, on the same weekend in September to launch the campaign. The event has been staged at various locations including last fall’s venture which was held at Kanata Recreation Complex, home of the CCHL’s Kanata Stallions.

The event proved to be such an enticement for hockey scouts from the National Hockey League, Major Junior hockey and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from the United States that a second showcase was added five seasons ago. Now called the ‘CCHL Holiday Showcase’ the competition is held the weekend before Christmas and follows the exact same format as the season opening venture in September.

As mentioned there is also a national tournament held in November called the World Junior A Challenge. It features players from across Canada and five other countries

including the United States. The sixth annual was held in Langley, British Columbia in early November with Team Canada West doubling Team Canada East (which included five CCHL players) 4-2 in the gold medal game. Canada West and the U.S. have won three titles each.

Three years ago the CCHL (then called the Central Junior Hockey League) launched the ‘Battle of Ontario’ which was held in Pembroke for two years in early January 2009 and again in 2010. It involved all-star squads from the CCHL and the OJHL.

This year that idea was expanded to establish the first Central Canada All-Star Challenge.

Abrams hopes it will become an annual event.

Many of the players who participated in the Smiths Falls tournament last week are already committed to NCAA schools and some have played in the Battle of Ontario, World Junior A Challenge and even the Royal Bank Cup (RBC), the Canadian Junior A championship. Pembroke are the defending RBC champions.

TOURNAMENT SYNOPSIS

The following are brief summaries from all 15 games played during the three-day Smiths Falls tournament Dec. 27-Dec. 29.

Quebec 3 – OJHL East 2 (SO): The Quebec team needed a shootout to prevail over the OJHL East entry in Tuesday’s tournament opener. Yannick Geoffrey, who had one of the regulation time goals for Quebec, also had one of the two shootout markers which carried his team to victory.

CCHL Robinson 5 – OJHL South 2: The Robinson team opened the tournament with an easy win over the OJHL South. Tyson Spink of Cornwall Colts scored once and set up another while Carleton Place defenceman Weidauer chipped in with two assists. Robertson, Darou and Hutton, along with Stephen Hrehoriak of Stittsville, who plays for Hawkesbury Hawks, also had goals.

OJHL West 4 – NOJHL 1: The OJHL West was outshot 19-14 by the Northern Ontario entry but was saved by great goaltending from James Prigione who kicked out 18 shots. Braeden Russell had a goal and one assist to lead the offence.

OJHL North 3 – CCHL Yzerman 2 (SO): The Yzerman team carried the play during two halves of regulation but succumbed in the shootout. Brent Bisdee of Kanata Stallions and Conor Brown of Ottawa Junior Senators had the regulation time goals for the Yzerman team.

OJHL South 6 – OJHL East 2: Backed by strong net minding the OJHL South scored a decisive win to even their record at 1-1. Mark Cooper had two goals to pace the winners. Victor Adamo made 21 saves as the South team was outshot 23-22.

Robinson 3 – Quebec 2 (SO): In the final game Tuesday the Robinson Division edged Quebec in a shootout for their second win of the day. Murphy of Carleton Place and Kyle Baun of Cornwall had the regulation time goals for the winners while Tyson Spink and Michael Borkowski, also of Colts, set up two apiece.

OJHL North 6 – OJHL West 2: In Wednesday’s tournament opener the OJHL North moved to 2-0 while the West squad fell to 1-1. Daniel Leavens scored twice while Drake Caggiula and Christian Finch had a goal and one assist each for the winners.

Yzerman 4 – NOJHL 1: The Yzerman Division won their first round-robin game by dominating Northern Ontario. They outshot their opponents 29-11 with Bisdee scoring his second of the competition. Mac Weegar of Nepean Raiders and Fabian Walsh of Cumberland Grads had a goal and one assist each.

Robinson 5 – OJHL East 3: The Robinson Division moved to 3-0 thanks in part to a goal and one assist by Canadians’ Murphy and three assists from 73’s defenceman Hutton. Dylan Goddard scored twice for OJHL East who was outshot 22-20.

Quebec 2 – OJHL South 1: The Quebec team won their first regulation time game, edging OJHL South to improve to 2-1. Samuel Aquin scored unassisted at 13:32 of the second half and that proved to be the winner. Quebec held a 20-18 shots edge.

Yzerman 4 – OJHL West 0: Last spring’s RBC star Francis Dupuis of Pembroke made just nine saves for the shutout as the Yzerman team recorded their second round-robin win of the day. Brent Norris of Nepean had a goal and an assist while Raiders’ teammate Craig Cowie, the CCHL’s regular season scoring leader, also netted once.

NOJHL 1 – OJHL North 0: In the final round-robin game Wednesday night, the OJHL North dropped their first game. They were blanked by two NOJHL net minders. Ken Appleby stopped all seven shots in the first half while Jean-Philippe Fecteau was the second half hero turning aside 15 shots. Nick Esposito’s goal at 4:58 of the first half was the only marker.

SEMI-FINALS

OJHL North 2 – Robinson 1 (SO): In the first semi-final game played at noon hour Thursday the Robinson All-Stars outshot OJHL North 21-16 but managed just one goal. Tyson Spink tied the game 1-1 with just 4:41 left in regulation. In the shootout phase both clubs sent three players to the line with the OJHL team scoring the only goal. Jason Pucciarelli made 20 saves for the winners.

Quebec 4 – Yzerman 2: The second host team also lost, falling to the Quebec Junior AAA entrant in a mid-afternoon contest. The Yzerman team was outshot 20-11 and trailed 3-2 at half-time. But they managed to hang on until the very end of the game. It took an empty netter by Marc-Antoine Rousseau to wrap it up for the Quebecers. Norris of Nepean had a powerplay goal in a losing cause. Raiders’ Matt Zawadzki yielded three goals in the first half while Dupuis stopped all 10 shots he faced in the second period.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL

Quebec 5 – OJHL North 1: In the tournament championship game the Quebec All-Stars dominated outshooting their opponents 41-25 and holding interval leads of 1-0 and 4-0. Julien Corriveau led the winners with two goals and an assist. Patrick Lapostolle and Samuel Aquin had a goal and one assist each. Caggiula ruined Frederic Piche’s shutout bid with the final goal of the night for OJHL North with 9:26 left in the final frame.

For additional information on the tournament or for complete details about the CCHL visit the website: www.centraljuniorhockeyleague.ca

Jeff Maguire

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