TISDALE — The Tisdale Trojans are ready to compete against the country’s best at the Telus Cup.
“I’m really looking forward to showing all the big cities what a little town can do,” Trojans forward Kalen Ukrainetz said.
Canada’s national midget AAA championship takes place in Thunder Bay, April 22 to 28. Joining the Trojans at the Telus Cup are the host Kings, Halifax Macs, Toronto Young Nationals, Calgary Buffaloes, and the Cantonniers de Magog. The Trojans earned their spot at the national tournament at the Telus Cup Western Regional Tournament, which they won in Tisdale.
“The boys are absolutely stoked for the Telus,” Tisdale captain Luke Arndt said. “This was our goal right from the start and having the win coming from Tisdale even makes us that more confident going into Thunder Bay to be determined for the Cup.”
At the Western Regional, the Trojans turned the heads of the rival Kings, who they beat in overtime in the finals.
"They're big, they're very physical, they're strong on the puck," Kings president Michael Power said of the Trojans in a CBC.ca website article.
Trojans head coach Darrell Mann said he has done some research on the other teams at the Telus Cup, but emphasized the team is more concerned about itself.
“We want to tune things up and get everyone in a great frame of mind,” he said.
Mann emphasized that the Telus Cup is mentally challenging. Teams play five round robin games in as many days. Then the top four advance to the semifinals with the championship contest the next day. That’s seven games in seven days for the Telus Cup champion and runner-up – a definite mental and physical challenge. Mann said the Trojans were happy to have time between the regional and Telus Cup so that some banged-up players could heal.
At the Telus Cup, the Trojans hope to continue the strong play they demonstrated at the Western Regional. The squad went a perfect 4-0 at the event.
“It was unbelievable,” Mann said. “It was probably the best four games in a row our team has played. … All 20 guys. How hard every player worked and how they bought in.”
As the Kings host this year’s Telus Cup, the Trojans qualified for the national championship by making the Western Regional final. However, team was not satisfied with that and beat the Kings, 6-5, in overtime on a Dawson Schaff goal.
At the tournament, Ukrainetz led all scorers with nine points in four games. Schaff was second with seven. Kosior had six points, while Cade Hayes, Tisdale’s top scorer in the regular season, and Trenton Curtis each had five. Goalie Tanner Martin had a 2.03 goals against average and a 0.917 save percentage.
Speaking about the season as a whole, Trojans defenceman Landon Kosior said the support of the fans in Tisdale has been amazing.
“To be able to put 1,200 fans in the building for midget hockey is something you never see,” he said. “The fans have been there for us all season during the best of times and supported us through our slumps. We were able to use their energy all regionals to give us an extra push on the ice and it really helped us come out on top.
“Going into overtime we were still in shock but before we lined up, I remember hearing the crowd get super loud and I think it motivated us all to keep going. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The team had an opportunity to say thanks to its fans, especially the young ones, at a Skate with the Trojans last Friday.
“They all look up to us so much and come to all of our games so it’s nice to kind of give back to the community by skating with the kids,” Kosior said. “I enjoyed letting loose before a big week of preparation for Telus and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when they got to come out and skate with us.”
The Trojans are headed to the Telus Cup for the first time since winning it in 2002. Tisdale went 3-2 in the round robin and beat Collège Charles-Lemoyne of Quebec, 4-1, in the semifinals. In the finals, the Trojans secured a 6-2 victory over a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia squad featuring a 14-year-old Sidney Crosby. When Mann was asked what he remembers most about the tournament in Bathurst, New Brunswick, he said: “The excitement and being around at a national championship event. Just how important every game is and every shift.”
In speaking about this year’s Telus Cup, Mann said:
“Every team is going to have a Tanner Martin. Every team is going to have a Cade Hayes and a Landon Kosior. You are playing the best of the best now.”