NORTH BAY – The North Bay Trappers of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League are gearing up to host the 2013 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Junior A championship, which goes April 30-May 4 at the venerable North Bay Memorial Gardens.
Joining the NOJHL champion Trappers at the four-team event will be the NOJHL finalist and defending Dudley-Hewitt title holding Soo Thunderbirds, along with the winners of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Superior International Junior Hockey League, the St. Michael’s Buzzers and Minnesota Wilderness respectively.
The following is a Dudley-Hewitt Cup competing team preview of the St. Michael’s Buzzers, champions of the OJHL:
THE BUZZERS: A storied junior hockey franchise, the Buzzers return to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup for the first time since 2006 when it was hosted in Thunder Bay.
During the course of the 2012-13 regular season St. Michael’s finished atop the OJHL South division with a record of 37-15-3-0 with their 77 points being good enough for the fourth best total in the 22-team league.
Moving on to the postseason, the Buzzers disposed of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in six games during opening round play.
Next up were the Georgetown Raiders in quarter-final action where St. Michael’s needed only five contests to win that best-of-seven affair 4-1.
OJHL semifinal competition saw the club meet the North York Rangers in an action-packed series that required six exciting contests before the Buzzers pulled it out.
Included in that series was a triple overtime thriller in game 3 and a double OT affair in game 6, both won by St. Michael’s.
THE FINALS: Advancing to the OJHL championship for the Buckland Cup, St. Michael’s found themselves down 2-0 after the opening two games of the final against the Newmarket Hurricanes.
Not to be deterred and buoyed by the brilliant netminding of goaltender of Adrian Ignagni, who would allow only seven more goals the rest of the way, the Buzzers came all the way back to win the OJHL final in a series that went the full seven games, including a 3-1 victory on home ice in front of a jam-packed crowd at St. Michael’s College School Arena in Toronto.
PLAYOFF MVP: A strong postseason in which he registered an OJHL-high 35 points helped earned Buzzers forward Shane Conacher league playoff most valuable player laurels.
The 19-year-old Burlington native scored 14 goals, including notching the game-winner in game 7 vs. Newmarket, and dished out 21 assists. He was also only held off the score sheet in five of his 23 playoff games played.
STATISTICS: The strong playoff run saw the Buzzers have seven players in the top 20 of OJHL scoring.
After Conacher, Matt Galati was knotted for third in the league with 27 points, which included a team-best three game-winning tallies.
Troy Josephs shared sixth with 20 points while Jake Evans and Troy Buckles tied for 11th picking up 17 each.
Rounding out the list were Jordan Merante and Michael Neville who both recorded 15 points in the playoffs.
The leading scorer for the club in regular season action was Buckles who had a team-leading 40 goals to go along with 31 helpers.
Captain Patrick McCarron’s 58 points led all OJHL defencemen in offensive production in the regular season while Cody Doiron and McCarron finished third and fourth overall in the postseason with 13 and 11 points between them.
Another strong candidate for OJHL playoff MVP accolades was netminder Adrian Ignagni.
He topped all OJHL puck stoppers in postseason victories with 16 and also led the way in save percentage at .938, among those who saw 400 minutes or more of game action. He was also fourth in goals-against average at 2.48.
ON THE RADAR: National Hockey League Central Scouting released their final rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft this June earlier this week and a pair of Buzzers were among 15 Canadian Junior Hockey League players that were identified as potential draft selections.
Forwards Matt Buckles and Troy Josephs were tabbed 117th and 119th respectively among North American skaters.
NCAA BOUND: The Buzzers presently have seven players on their roster that have committed to play NCAA hockey in the U.S. on scholarship.
OJHL top defenceman award winner and CJHL defenceman of the year finalist McCarron will be off to the ECAC and Cornell with Buckles while Josephs will join fellow ECAC member, the Clarkson Golden Knights.
Forward Jake Evans, a finalist for CJHL rookie of the year, will attend the University of Notre Dame and Michael Neville will be going to Michigan Tech of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Meanwhile defenceman Jared Walsh has committed to Michigan for 2014 and OJHL playoff MVP Shane Conacher is going to Canasius.
BENCH BOSS: The head coach of the team is Rich Ricci, who also serves as the club’s general manager.
DUDLEY-HEWITT CUP GAME SCHEDULE
Tuesday, April 30th: St. Michael's vs. Soo T-Birds 2:30 pm
Tuesday, April 30th: Wilderness vs. Jr. Trappers 7 pm
Wednesday, May 1st: Soo T-Birds vs. Wilderness 2:30 pm
Wednesday, May 1st: St. Michael's vs. Jr. Trappers 7 pm
Thursday, May 2nd: Wilderness vs. St. Michael's 2:30 pm
Thursday, May 2nd: Jr. Trappers vs. Soo T-Birds 7 pm
Friday, May 3rd: Semi-final: 2nd vs.3rd 7 pm
Saturday, May 4th: Final: 1st vs. Semi-final winner 7 pm