none

No. 1 Spotlight: Ontario Boys AAA

By Scott Lowe - MyHockeyRankings.com

This week, our No. 1 Spotlight series moves on to Ontario as we highlight the AAA boys teams that ended the season ranked No. 1 in the province, according to MyHockeyRankings.com, from PeeWees through Midgets.

We begin with the 2007 birth year PeeWee Major age group:

 

PeeWee 2007 Toronto Jr. Canadiens

The top-ranked ’07 Toronto Jr. Canadiens started the season like a house of fire, sprinting out of the gates by compiling a 27-game unbeaten streak and a 24-0-3 record before suffering their first loss of the season, 4-2, to the seventh-ranked Waterloo Wolves Nov. 1. 

The next month or so wouldn’t prove to be so easy for the Canadiens, however, as they struggled through a five-game early November stretch that saw them go 3-2 and then dropped three-straight games – and four of six – as part of a 2-4-3 skid in early December. They managed to steer the ship back on course, though, and were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and a 12-1-1 stretch when COVID-19 officially shut down GTHL postseason play.

Being able to overcome that adversity and roll through the first two rounds of the league playoffs convinced coach Chris Malkhassian that his team was playing its best at the right time.

“We recovered and were able to come out of it better than ever, which speaks to the resiliency and determination of our group,” Malkhassian said. “We were all very disappointed {to have the season shut down}. Our kids worked so hard, and we were peaking at the right time. We won Game 1 of the GTHL finals, 6-0, and we were well-positioned to defend our league title and move on to the OHF {Tournament} – and then, full stop. It was a very bitter ending.”

That 6-0 victory in the finals came against the second-ranked, but top-seeded Toronto Marlboros. The Marlies had gone 26-4-3 in GTHL play to edge the Canadiens, who went 24-4-5, by two points in the standings. But the win continued the Canadiens’ dominance over the Marlies, improving their record against them to 6-1 on the year.

The Jr. Canadiens went 8-1 against Ontario’s – and Canada’s – second- and third-ranked teams. They recorded victories against six of Ontario’s top-10 clubs in posting a 58-9-9 overall mark. Eight of their nine losses came against teams ranked among the province’s top 10, and the Canadiens outscored their opponents, 294-106. For the season they held their foes to one goal or fewer 46 times while recording 23 shutouts.

“We are a relentless group and thrive on being the best – focused and committed to getting better individually, and more important, as a team,” Malkhassian said. “Winning takes care of itself. After winning our third-straight GTHL championship in minor PeeWee, we took a short break for a few weeks, and then we were right back at it, pretending the championship never happened: more expectations, more titles, more goals, better defense, more effort. I am really blessed to coach a wonderful group of kids.”  

 

Here is the team roster:

G – Nico Armellin and Alex Armellin.

D – Harrison McLean, Keagan Knight, Michael Lavigne, Adam Culmone, Michael Elkin.

F – Aidan Lee, Wesley Royston, Carter Kostuch, Kieran Witkowski, Luca Romano, Chase Yanni, Jake O’Brien, Evan Malkhassian.

 

PeeWee 2008 Toronto Marlboros

The Marlboros-Jr. Canadiens rivalry extended to the PeeWee Minor age group as well, but this time it was the Marlies who would come out on top in the final Ontario rankings. They posted a 52-7-3 overall record, outscoring their opponents, 308-78, to get the nod over their GTHL rivals, the second-ranked Canadiens and No. 3 Vaughan Kings.

Those three teams also finished neck-and-neck in the GTHL regular-season standings, with two points separating the first-place Marlies (28-2-3), from the second-place Kings (27-2-2) and third-place Canadiens. (27-3-3). The Marlies concluded the regular season with a 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2) to nip the other two at the wire. Overall, they went 10-1-1 in their final 12 contests and 19-3-3 over their final 24. 

The Marlies opened the GTHL playoffs with a 3-1 series victory against the Toronto Nationals and took Game 1 of the semifinals, 3-1, against the ninth-ranked Toronto Red Wings before COVID-19 shut down the postseason.

They held their opponents to one goal or fewer 39 times during the season, recording 20 shutouts. The Marlies posted six straight shutouts from Sept. 13 until Oct. 7.

Further indicating how tight the race was at the top of the rankings, the Marlies split four games against the Canadiens and went 0-1-1 in three contests vs. the Kings.

Their only regular-season losses came against Ontario’s second- and third-ranked teams as well against the United States’ No. 2 and 16 clubs. The Marlies, who lost one postseason game to Canada’s 22nd-ranked Nationals, recorded victories against Canada Nos. 2, 3 and 9 as well as vs. U.S. Nos. 3, 5, 11, 12 and 13.

 

Bantam 2006 Mississauga Senators

You would think tor a hockey team that compiled a 56-1-1 record the season would have been pretty much smooth sailing. That wasn’t always the case for Ontario’s top-ranked Bantam ’06 boys team, the Mississauga Senators.

Despite putting together a dominant campaign in which they outscored their opponents by a remarkable 329-62 margin, the Senators overcame adversity on several occasions.

Mississauga found itself missing four players in the Toronto Red Wings Earlybird Tournament finals and still managed to pull off a victory against the 12th-ranked Toronto Nationals. The Senators were staring at a two-goal deficit after the first period in the finals of the Eastern Exposure Cup before rallying for five-straight goals in a 5-2 victory. 

Then, against the top-ranked team in the United States – the Boston Jr. Eagles – in a thrilling International Silver Stick championship game, Mississauga exploded for a 5-1 lead before penalties took their toll and allowed the Eagles to rally to within 5-4 in the final period. The Senators stemmed the tide, however, and found a way to score the next goal to secure the tournament title.

In addition to those three tournament crowns, Mississauga also earned the GTHL regular-season championship by going 32-1-0 in league play. The next-closest team, the third-ranked Toronto Marlboros, finished 11 points back at 25-5-3. In GTHL games the Sens held their opponents to under one goal per contest while averaging nearly six per outing.

Their lone loss came against the No. 2 Toronto Jr. Canadiens way back on Oct. 13, and ironically, the only tie was vs. the eighth-ranked Vaughan Kings in their Sept. 5 season opener. Mississauga concluded its season with 43 straight victories, allowing more than one goal just 13 times during that stretch and recording 13 shutouts.

“With our team it starts and finishes with team play and effort,” coach Chris Stevenson said. “We’ve had different players come through for us in many big games and step up for others when they were injured or suspended. Our players’ excitement for their teammates when they score is truly something special. It’s all about the team.”

The Senators recorded a four-game sweep of the 13th-ranked Markham Majors in the opening round of the GTHL playoffs and beat the No. 5 Toronto Titans, 3-1, in Game 1 of the semifinals when COVID-19 brought their dream season to a halt.

“Shock and sadness,” is how Stevenson described the team’s reaction when the playoffs were shut down. “Obviously, at the time we didn’t realize how serious and scary this pandemic is. We definitely felt like we had unfinished business, but it was a great season and we hope to get back on the ice soon.”

 

Bantam 2005 Oakville Rangers

The Oakville Rangers Bantam 2005 team put together a magical 58-7-2 season to earn the No. 1 ranking in Ontario and the No. 4 ranking in all of Canada, according to MyHockeyRankings.com. But they found themselves in a dogfight (pun intended) all year long with the ninth-ranked Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs within their own South Central AAA league. 

The two teams met as recently as March 1, with Oakville earning a 7-4 victory, and were on a crash course to collide again in the SCTA finals when the season was halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Heading into the postseason the teams recorded the same number of points in league play (55), with Oakville earning the top seed by virtue of having recorded more victories and winning the season series against the Bulldogs, 4-1-1. The Rangers were 27-4-1, compared to Hamilton’s 26-3-3 in the SCTA.

“Our program is designed and focused over three seasons – minor bantam through minor midget – on progressive development of the players to get as many as possible drafted in their OHL draft year,” coach Gord Hynes said. “So while the team naturally had some hopes for the possibility of playing in and maybe even winning the provincial championship this season, next season is actually the one we have been – and continue to be – preparing for.”

If next season is the big one for the Rangers, they built plenty of momentum going into the offseason by winning their final 10 contests, going unbeaten in their last 11 games (10-0-1) and posting an 18-1-1 mark over their final 20 outings.

“The qualities that made this group such a good team, first and foremost, are that they have a real love of the game,” Hynes said, “and to a player, they want to be at the rink and they practice just as hard as they play the games. But the real secret to their success is that the team has a significant amount of depth throughout the lineup. We quite literally had a team full of players who all play on the power play and all kill penalties, and the goaltenders split the season equally, with both playing at a high level.”

Oakville participated in three tournaments during the season, winning the Toronto Red Wings Early Bird and the Wendy Dufton Memorial events. In addition to capturing the SCTA regular-season title, the Rangers already had qualified for the provincial championship when play was halted.

The team’s on-ice success was surpassed by its community-services efforts. The Rangers joined the 18th Man Project and sponsored a teenager in Uganda named Stanley for the season. Players exchanged correspondence regularly with Stanley to gain an appreciation of each other’s cultures and daily lives while also helping Stanley’s family fund some of its basic needs. The funding allowed Stanley to have an operation performed on his foot to help him walk properly.

In addition, the players raised money and gathered food donations prior to Christmas for local food banks as part of the Gift of Giving Back program. 

On the ice they outscored their opponents, 376-138, and recorded victories against four of Ontario’s top-10 teams and two of the United States’ top-14 clubs.

“They were a very tight team,” Hynes said. “So, as a result, this group is able to keep a very high pace of play in almost every game, which helps with the consistency that ultimately leads to being the No. 1-ranked team.”

  

Minor Midget 2004 Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Minor Midget is a very important year for young Canadian hockey players hoping to advance and play major junior hockey. In Ontario, the Minor Midget programs strive to field a successful team in terms of wins and losses while at the same time developing as many players as possible to be selected in Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Draft.

For the Montreal Jr. Canadiens ’04 Minor Midget team, the 2019-20 season definitely was a win-win proposition.

Not only did the Candiens earn the No. 1 ranking in Ontario, according to MYHockeyRankings.com, with an overall record of 50-10-2, but they also had 11 players selected in the OHL draft, including the top-two overall picks and three total first-round selections.

Two-way defenseman Ty Nelson was selected first by the North Bay Battalion, with center Pano Fimis, the GTHL Player of the Year, going second to the Niagara Ice Dogs. Left wing Aidan Castle went 13th to the Oshawa Generals. 

On the ice, the Jr. Candiens captured the GTHL regular-season crown with a 28-3-2 record to finish 12 points in front of the fifth-ranked Toronto Nationals. And they already had rolled through the GTHL playoffs with quarterfinal and semifinal sweeps before knocking off the No. 6 Vaughan Kings in the finals.

Next up for the Canadiens was the OHL Cup, but that dream was shattered by the outbreak of COVID-19.

“It's tough for the kids and families,” General Manager Johnny Winstanley said. “We were just starting to play some of our best hockey as a group, and we had our sights set on winning the OHL cup. When we first learned of the cancellation, we held out some hope that maybe, just maybe, things could resume. Obviously that won't happen, so we decided to begin designing our championship rings, and we have a tentative team party planned for the minute this all ends.”

The difficult ending to the Canadiens’ season seemed to be par for the course for a resilient squad that faced many highs and lows throughout its journey.  

Mick Thompson, counted on as one of the team’s top players, left the program in July to join the North Jersey Avalanche, a United States 16U AAA powerhouse. Another top player, Adam Fantilli, departed in October for a U.S. prep-school opportunity. And on top of that, the father of defenseman Thomas Sirman died in November.

“We had a lot of ups and downs this season,” General Manager Johnny Winstanley said. “The boys just kept buying in and wanting to prove they could win. Through it all, the boys kept working. They kept fighting and really had a chip on their shoulders to show that they still were the No. 1 team. In the finals we went down 2-0, and again the boys rallied together and came back to win the series and the championship.”

Other top players who helped the Candiens earn that No. 1 ranking and capture the GTHL title included:

 

D – Michael Buchinger, Thomas Sirman, Noah VanVilet.

F – Michael Podolioukh, Brice Cooke, Kyan Haldenby.

 

Midget AAA Peterborough Petes

Head coach Scott Roche came over to join the Petes last spring from the Central Ontario Wolves, adding his brother Dave as an assistant coach and his father Mike as a trainer. The Roches were able to lure several Ontario Hockey League prospects and draft picks to the Petes from outside Peterborough before Petes OHL General Manager Mike Oke placed three of their 2019 draft picks with the midget team.

And the rest is history.

Peterborough finished the year 45-10-4 and ranked eighth overall in Canada to go along with the No. 1 Ontario Midget AAA ranking. The Petes won the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) Eastern AAA Hockey League (ETA) regular-season title with 28-6-2 mark and had earned a spot in the OMHA round-robin finals by knocking off Central Ontario and the Whitby Wildcats in the ETA playoffs.   

Along the way, the Petes outscored their opponents, 237-96, for the season for an average of 1.63 goals allowed per game in 59 contests. Their two goalies, Michael Simpson and Ayden Bulmer, ranked first and second in the ETA in goals-against average at 1.67 and 1.78, respectively, while literally splitting time between the pipes. Neither goalie appeared in back-to-back games at any point. 

"I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with,” Bulmer said. “I’ve played with most of them for a number of years at the AAA level, but it was awesome adding skill from some out-of-town players who have been our competition in the past. I think it gave our team depth, added additional high-level skill and assisted in providing the perfect combination for our team to succeed the way we did.”

As the youngest of the top-12 teams in Ontario, Peterborough started the year by winning 26 of its first 29 games and allowed two or fewer goals 45 times. Six of the Petes’ 10 losses were by a single goal, with several others decided by two goals thanks to empty-net tallies.

“I felt honored to wear a Peterborough Petes jersey for the first time,” defenseman and Erie Otters prospect Ethan Schoonderbeek said. “Even as a new player, the boys all made me feel like part of the team. We were like brothers. This connection made us a successful team. 

The team was looking forward to competing in the OMHA Championships and then potentially for a national championship in the Telus Cup. It appeared as though the Petes had every right to believe that a national title might be within their reach after going 6-0-1 to in the postseason and outscoring their opponents, 44-10, with 14 players contributing five or more points in the process.

Unfortunately, all of Peterborough’s championship dreams were when Hockey Canada cancelled all sanctioned activities, including national championships.

 “We were really on a roll and we all knew we could have gone on a lot longer when the season came to an end,” Schoonderbeek said. “I wasn’t distraught, but the best word to describe what I was feeling was disappointed.”

Added Bulmer: “There’s a camaraderie amongst us that can’t be broken, friendships made through a shared passion for hockey. We worked so hard to get to where we got, and it’s hard to see this season come to an end so abruptly. It was amazing knowing we’d moved onto the OMHA’s, and I feel our season was far from ending. We had a good chance at doing some great stuff.”

More articles like this...
Other articles of this type...