Don Johnson Cup Atlantic tourney begins today
The Mask Security Celtics have come a long way and they are not finished yet.
The fourth-seeded Celtics upset the first-place St. John’s Toyota Plaza Caps to win the Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League championship and then went on to win the provincial junior title with a victory over the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in the Veitch Memorial Trophy final.
Now, the Celtics have the opportunity to add the Don Johnson Cup Atlantic junior B title to their résumé. They open the tournament today against the Kensington Vipers in Montague, P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s representatives take on Nova Scotia’s Bay Ducks and the host P.E.I. Maniacs Thursday, then complete the round-robin Friday against the New Brunswick River Cats.
“I don’t think we are overachieving,” said Celtics coach Warren Sullivan. “I just think our players committed to a game plan and worked hard all year. They bought into what the coaches were selling.
“In September, we sat down together and talked about what we had and how much work we had ahead of us.
“To be quite honest, the league championship was not in our thoughts at the time. We certainly wanted to finish in the top four and if we did that, we’d have a chance.
“We knew we had a good team and it took off from there. It’s been a long season, but we still have a lot left in the tank. There’s a lot of character on this team and a lot of leaders like Dan Cadigan, Dave Parsons and Matthew Oates.”
Sullivan said the upcoming tournament is not a holiday.
“It took a lot of work to raise $30,000 to make this trip,” he said. “This is all about business. We want to win this championship.”
Sullivan believes the provincial representatives have a good shot at claiming the title.
“I think our league is second to none,” said Sullivan.
The team has been practising mostly once a week since the provincials and twice a week recently.
“We’re mentally prepared and ready to go physically,” he said.
“We’ve had some rest which should help because we’ve got to play four games over three days in the round-robin. If we make it to the final, it will be six games in five days. That’s a lot of hockey, but I believe our players are prepared for it.”
Sullivan said the team’s strength is its “rock solid” five-man defence led by Cadigan, who the coach claims is “the best player in the league by far. He could anchor any senior league team right now.”
The other rearguards are Matthew Walsh, Chris Ryan, Nathan Hull and Reid Connors.
The top line of Justin LeBlanc, Oates and Matthew Roche carried the team from the start of the season, according to Sullivan.
Tyler Parsons centres the second line with wingers Shane McGrath and Adrian Cuomo. Hugh Muise, Matt Connors and Stephen Morrissey make up the third unit, with Josh Coates, Cory Waterman and Chris Amminson on the fourth line.
The goaltenders are first-string Dave Parsons and backup Bill Doyle.
The Caps represented Newfoundland at the 2010 Don Johnson Cup, going 1-3 in the round-robin before losing to the eventual champion Cumberland County in the semifinal.
The Caps won the crown in 2009.
The Don Johnson Cup was first played for in 1982, when it was won by Brother Rice Celtics, and is named after Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador life member Don Johnson.