The St. John’s Ice Breakers bantam hockey team take a 16-1-1 record into the 23rd edition of the Irving Oil Challenge Cup Atlantic bantam hockey championship which opens today at The
Glacier in Mount Pearl.
The Ice Breakers will represent the province in the five-team event, joining host Tri-Com Thunder.
The St. John’s club selected its roster from 13- and 14-year-old players in the St. John’s, Avalon-Celtics, Goulds and Northeast minor associations. The Tri-Com team was selected from players within the Mount Pearl, CBR, Southern Shore and Bell Island minor programs.
Since 2000, St. John’s has won the Atlantic bantam crown three times, including back-to-back titles in 2006 and ’07. The St. John’s Canadian Tire team dominated the 2011 tournament, going undefeated and posting a 31-7 goals-for-and-against ratio.
In that tournament, Clark Bishop was named the MVP, while Nathan Noel was the top scorer and Cody Donaghey the top defenceman.
All three are currently in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — Bishop with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Noel with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Donaghey with the Quebec Remparts.
Ice Breakers coach Gerry Dalton has no grand illusions of waltzing through this year’s Challenge Cup tournament, but he likes the team he will be icing, going so far as to say he will be disappointed if St. John’s is not in Sunday’s final game.
“We won the bronze last year (third of five teams in P.E.I.), and we’ve got seven kids back from that team,” he said. “Up front and on the back end, we’re as deep as we were last year.
“I was in Halifax in January and I watched the Nova Scotia AAA final and from what I could see, we’re as competitive as those two teams.
“The wild card is the Moncton team. We haven’t seen them play this season.”
The Moncton AAA Bantam Hawks went 26-1-1 in the New Brunswick AAA bantam league this season. The North West Bulls from New Brunswick won the Atlantic crown last year.
The Ice Breakers won the provincial title in Rocky Harbour in February, going 5-0 and capping off the tournament with a 5-0 win over Tri-Pen in the final. Matthew McKim led the winners in the championship game with three goals.
The Thunder languished to a 1-3 record at the provincials.
St. John’s and Tri-Com joined four other zones in the province (Northern, Western, Central and Tri-Pen) in four tournaments this season in Stephenville, Marystown, Bishop’s Falls and the provincials in Rocky Harbour.
Next year, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador will, like their Atlantic Canada neighbours, start a provincial AAA bantam league.
This year’s Atlantic Irving Oil Challenge Cup will be streamed online. Go to www.irvingoilcup.com and follow the link.
(All games at The Glacier)
2 p.m. — St. John’s vs. N.S.
4:30 p.m. — N.B. vs P.E.I.
7 p.m. — Opening ceremonies
7:30 p.m. — N.S. vs. Tri-Com
10 a.m. — P.E.I. vs. St. John’s
12:30 p.m. — Tri-Com vs. N.B.
4 p.m. — P.E.I. vs. N.S.
7:30 p.m. — St. John’s vs. Tri-Com
10 a.m. — N.S. vs. N.B.
12:30 p.m. — Tri-Com vs. P.E.I.
3:30 p.m. — N.B. vs. St. John’s
7 p.m. — Awards banquet
9:30 a.m. — Bronze medal game
12 p.m. — Championship game
St. John’s Ice Breakers
Players: Zach Gauvreau, Brandon McIsaac, Matthew McKim, Kyle McGrath, Ian Smallwood, Thomas Hagan, Joel Bishop, Curtis Heffernan, Cameron Sullivan, Josh Langmead, Chris Connors, Michael McCarthy, Evan White, Matt O’Leary, Cody Langmed, Alex Noseworthy, Matthew Templeman, Tyler Squires and Nathan Kenny.
Staff: Coach Gerry Dalton, assistant coaches Joe Pickett and Trevor Budgell, goalie coach Travis Wilkins, trainer Ryan Morgan, manager Tim Power.
Players: Zachary Coates, Nathan Milley, Jacob Upshall, Brandon Lucas, David Moore, Zachary Rose, Dominic Nugent, Matthew Martin, Nick Gosse, Nathan Dunne, Tison Ryan, Ryan Holloway, Brendan Houlihan, Nathan Whitten, Aaron Greenham, Chris Murphy, Lucas Osmond, Kent Gillingham and Noah Lambert.
Staff: Coach John Baldwin, assistant coaches David Tilley and Don Bennett, director of operations Rojean Williams and trainer Alison Osmond.