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DAILY DISH: Royal Bank Cup Preview Canadian Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 8 May 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,

132 teams across Canada (with a few in the United States) started the 2017-18 season with the same goal in mind; to advance to the Royal Bank Cup. 

Four teams join the British Columbia Hockey League’s Chilliwack Chiefs for the 48th Canadian Junior “A” National Championship event. This year’s event is being played at the Chiefs’ home at the 5,000 seat Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.

The biggest story coming into this year’s tournament is the real threat that an American team can take home the cup. If that happens, the Canadian hockey world will try to make changes to ensure it can never happen again. 

Chilliwack Chiefs 
League: British Columbia Hockey League
Regular Season: 26-26-3-3 
CJHL Final Ranking: Not Ranked
Playoffs: Defeated by Prince George Spruce Kings (3-4)
Playoffs Record: 3-4
Thoughts: There had to be a ton of backstabbing going on for the ownership of this team to fire Jason Tatarnic before the start of the RBC. Let’s see how his team responds now. Built to contend for the RBC, the Chiefs played uninspired hockey all season before getting bounced in the first round of the BCHL Playoffs. The general thought is it's just another case of having too many stars on the team and not enough pucks to go around. The talent is certainly in place to make a run but the question remains; do they have the heart?

Wenatchee Wild 
League: British Columbia Hockey League
Regular Season: 37-16-4-1
CJHL Final Ranking: Not Ranked
Playoffs: FIRST ROUND 4-0 over Merritt Centennials / SECOND ROUND 4-2 over Vernon Vipers / SEMI-FINAL 4-1 over Trail Smoke Eaters / BCHL FINAL 4-1 over Prince George Spruce Kings / DOYLE CUP 4-1 over Spruce Grove Saints
Playoffs Record: 20-5
Thoughts: The National Championship of Canada is Wenatchee’s to lose, the remainder of the field, outside of Chilliwack, will find themselves in the same position as the Spruce Grove Saints; and that is just trying to keep up. The Wild are unbelievably fast, disciplined, and more than willing to get physical if that’s what the other team wants to do, and that would be a huge mistake.

Steinbach Pistons
League: Manitoba Junior Hockey League
Regular Season: 48-8-2-2
CJHL Final Ranking: #3
Playoffs: OUARTER-FINAL 4-0 over Swan Valley Stampeders / SEMI-FINAL 4-2 over Winnipeg Blues / MJHL FINAL 4-2 over Virden Oil Capitals / ANAVET CUP 4-2 over Nipawin Hawks
Playoff Record:20-10
Thoughts: I believe in the developmental potential of the Manitoba and Saskatchewan junior “A” leagues. The issue here is going to be level of competition on a daily basis. Winning 40 more games than losses in regulation is fine and dandy for the CJHL rankings, but it’s cancer when it comes to keeping the competitive fire going inside the heart of each player. Again, we love these leagues but hate what continues to happen time and time again when it comes to events like the RBC. With just five titles in 22 years of competition, the writing is on the wall.  

Wellington Dukes
League: Ontario Junior Hockey League
Regular Season: 33-13-3-5
CJHL Final Ranking: Not Ranked
Playoffs: NORTHEAST QUARTER-FINAL 4-3 over Pickering Panthers / NORTHEAST SEMI-FINAL 4-3 over Newmarket Hurricanes / NORTHEAST FINALS 4-1 over Aurora Tigers / OJHL FINAL 4-2 over Georgetown Raiders / DUDLEY HEWITT CUP Round Robin 2-1, SEMI-FINAL game 6-3 over Thunder Bay North Stars, CHAMPIONSHIP game 7-4 over Dryden Ice Dogs
Playoffs Record: 20 wins - 10 losses
Thoughts: The Dukes fought their way through the post-season with one gutsy performance after another. Like the Anavet Cup winners above, the Dudley Hewitt Champions have just three titles in 22 years of RBC competition. The issue with teams in leagues like the OJHL is fact that players are free to move around the country and are no longer stuck within the province. Those pesky player fees are not helping either. Yes, teams can load up on 20 year-olds to make a post-season run, but doing so seams to do a number on locker room morale. 

Ottawa Jr. Senators
Regular Season: 49-9-5-2
CJHL Final Ranking: #7
Playoffs: QUARTER-FINALS 4-2 over Pembroke Lumber Kings / SEMI-FINAL 4-3 over Brockville Braves / CCHL FINAL 4-1 over Carlton Place Canadians / FRED PAGE CUP ROUND ROBIN record 2-1, CHAMPIONSHIP game 10-1 over Longueuill College Francais.
Playoffs Record: 15 wins - 7 losses
Thoughts: The Jr Sens cruised to a 10-1 win in the Final of the Fred Page Cup after having an easy time in the regular season. That won/loss ratio changed dramatically in the playoffs as the level of play increased. The five game series win over Carlton Place was impressive enough. I’m not convinced that there is going to be much more in the tank.

Saturday May 12 - 2pm – Wellington Dukes vs Ottawa Jr. Senators
Saturday May 12 - 7pm - Wenatchee Wild vs Chilliwack Chiefs

Sunday May 13 - 2pm - Steinbach Pistons vs Wenatchee Wild
Sunday May 13 - 7pm - Chilliwack Chiefs vs Ottawa Jr. Senators

Monday May 14 - 7pm – Steinbach Pistons vs Wellington Dukes

Tuesday May 15 - 2pm - Ottawa Jr. Senators vs Wenatchee Wild
Tuesday May 15 - 7pm – Wellington Dukes vs Chilliwack Chiefs

Wednesday May 16 - 7pm - Ottawa Jr. Senators vs Steinbach Pistons

Thursday May 17 - 2pm – Wenatchee Wild vs Wellington Dukes
Thursday May 17 - 7pm - Chilliwack Chiefs vs Steinbach Pistons

Semi Finals:
Saturday May 19 - 2pm - Semi Final Game #1
Saturday May 19 - 7pm - Semi Final Game #2

Championship Game
Sunday May 20 - 4pm - Championship Game

PREDICTION: I feel that Wenatchee’s talent and speed will overcome any team of 20-year-old trade deadline add-ons in the end. That’s going to depend on how the games are called and l can only hope that whistles are not silenced by the threat of an American team taking home the hardware. 

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Group. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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