Three Nickel City teams qualify for OHF championships

By: Randy Pascal – Playback

 | Apr 08, 2014 - 11:01 AM |
Three nickel city teams are preparing for the Ontario Hockey Federation Championships in Windsor this weekend.

Three nickel city teams are preparing for the Ontario Hockey Federation Championships in Windsor this weekend.

The Nickel City Major Bantam Jr. Sons may have caught a break or two on their road to capturing an NOHA championship banner last month.

But now that they have earned their berth to the Ontario Hockey Federation Championships in Windsor, the group is determined to make the most of it.

The Sons needed an overtime goal from Kyle Allair to claim their trip to southwestern Ontario, edging the Sudbury Bulldogs 2-1 after the SMHA squad eliminated the favoured West Ferris Promo Sports crew 2-1 in their semifinal encounter.

But with nine players returning from the Peewee AA team that dropped a 3-2 semifinal decision back in 2012, at provincials, to the gold-medal winning Mississauga Rebels, there was a sense of optimism entering the 2013-2014 season.

"We thought we could definitely win some tournaments," said defenceman Eric Lefebvre, one of the key additions to the team since the group hosted the OHF playdowns two years ago.

"Our first tournament wasn't that great, but we showed a lot of progress in our other tournaments and finally got to the Tournament of Champions (NOHA playdowns) and won that," he said.

"Our first tournament was a major learning experience. We didn't have much chemistry together. We needed much more awareness about where our players were on the ice."

Gradually, things would come together. The Jr. Sons, who lost only once in their 28-game Nickel District Minor Hockey League season, desperately needed to search out top-end out-of-town competition in order to up the ante.

Goaltender Cameron Lamour, an underaged holdover from the 2012 team, has certainly noticed a difference.

"The defence are playing really well for me," he said. "We've been forechecking really hard, getting in on the puck quickly.

"In our end, after the first shot, our defence have to clear the net right away so that I don't get two or three shots right in front of the net."

With a strong showing at a tournament in Barrie, along with their success on a local level, the Jr. Sons targeted a trip to the all-Ontario event.

"At the Tournament of Champions, we really thought we could go all the way," said Lamour. "We knew most of the teams coming in."

Beaten 3-2 by West Ferris in round-robin play in Sudbury, Nickel City nearly fell victim to overconfidence once their expected rivals were knocked out by the Bulldogs.

After all, the Sons had handled the SMHA AA reps with relative ease, opening the Tournament of Champions with a 5-1 win over their cross-town adversaries. With many of these teenagers having garnered the OHF experience in 2012, it's not likely they will look past any opponent this weekend.

"We know that there are going to be tough teams at the OHFs, so we have to work harder," said Lefebvre. "We'll have to work as a team in Windsor. We can't just go all by ourselves."

The Jr. Sons open play on Friday afternoon, facing the Toronto Ice Warriors at 2:30 p.m., and are back on the ice at 7:30 p.m. against the host Windsor Jr. Spitfires.

Encounters on Saturday with the Burlington Eagles and London Jr. Knights will close out the preliminary action, with the top four advancing through to the Sunday morning semifinals.

The 2013-2014 edition of the Nickel City Major Bantam AA Jr. Sons includes Nicholas Larocque, Cameron Lamour, Justin Lindenbach, Kyle Allair, Tristan Duncan, Eric Lefebvre, Dawson Nootchtai, Kyle Preseau, Jason Gough, Ryan Boudreau, Cameron Keenan, Kris Lizzi, Patrick Parkinson, Alexander Bouthillier, Ben Lagadin and Cameron Mostoway.

The team staff features head coach Craig Keenan, assistants Tom Watier, Jason Lagadin and James Duncan, trainer Terry Nootchtai and team manager Sara Allair.

The Nickel City Bantam AA crew are one of three NCHA teams that have worked their way through to the OHF Championships this year. The Nickel City Atom AA team are off to Sault Ste. Marie this weekend, while the Peewee AA Jr. Sons make their way down to Woodstock, site of their all-Ontario competition.

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