Winning championships never grows old especially when they come on home ice.
Just ask the members of the Whitby Wildcats AAA Minor Midget squad that recently won the OMHA Championship in front of family members and friends at the Iroquois Park Sports Complex in Whitby.
On March 5, the Wildcats knocked off the Brampton 45’s, 5-3 in the gold medal game to win the 2017 OMHA Minor Midget crown and defend their Bantam title from a year ago.
“Winning the OMHA championship and the much sought after “Red Hat” on home ice was a special moment for the entire organization,” said Wildcats head coach Rob Pearson.
The former NHL player with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues expressed what a special year it has been for his troops.
“Defending a title is never an easy accomplishment but this group of quality kids rose to the occasion and were rewarded with a celebration in front of a packed house at the Iroquois Complex.”
The championship weekend took place from March 3-5 with five OMHA teams competing for the crown.
Besides the Wildcats, who played host to the event, the Brampton 45’s, Ajax-Pickering Raiders, Quinte Red Devils and Grey-Bruce Highlanders rounded out the competition after winning their respective regions.
After a 31-3-2 regular season in the Eastern AAA league, the Wildcats swept both Peterborough and Ajax-Pickering in two playoff series to reach the tournament despite having a bye as event host.
Coming into the championship weekend, Whitby were No. 3 in the Under Armour Minor Midget Top Ten Rankings with Quinte No. 5, Ajax-Pickering No. 7 and Brampton No. 9.
After four round robin games, the Wildcats finished at the top of the standings with seven points, courtesy of three wins and one tie.
Whitby opened up the three-day event with a convincing 5-0 shutout over Ajax-Pickering followed by a much closer match in their second game of Day 1 action when they squeaked out a 4-3 win over Brampton.
On Day 2 action, the Wildcats disposed of Quinte 4-0 with another shutout performance.
Later in the day, Whitby and Grey-Bruce played to a 2-2 draw which prevented the Wildcats from recording a perfect 4-0 record.
The final standings heading into the final day of competition had Whitby in first place (7 pts.) followed by Brampton (2-2-0, 4 pts.).
After that it was a log jam between three teams, Ajax-Pickering (1-2-1, 3 pts.), Quinte (1-2-1, 3 pts.) and Grey-Bruce (1-2-1, 3 pts.).
The gold medal game saw the top two teams (Whitby, Brampton) going head-to-head for the OMHA Championship.
Calculating the identity of the two teams in the bronze medal game posed somewhat of a problem with three squads finishing with identical (1-2-1) records.
Ajax-Pickering qualified as one team after defeating Grey-Bruce 5-2 then tying Quinte 5-5 in the round robin.
The Red Devils made it to the bronze medal game with their 3-1 victory over Grey Bruce in the preliminary round.
In the end, Quinte topped Ajax-Pickering 4-2 to take home bronze and solidify their spot in the upcoming OHL Cup.
The top four finishers (Whitby, Brampton, Quinte, Ajax-Pickering) officially received OHL Cup qualification while the fifth place team (Grey-Bruce) will have the opportunity to compete in one of the tournament’s Wild Card Play-In games.
Also competing in a Wild Card Play-In game from the OMHA are the Halton Hurricanes who defeated the Guelph Gryphons in the SCTA’s Consolation.
The Wildcats will have a couple of days to prepare for the OHL Cup which runs from March 14 to 20.
All games will be played at the Scotiabank Pond in Toronto until the finale moves to the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Monday March 20.
Whitby will be up against the best Minor Midget teams in the province with every one of the 20 participating teams looking to bring home the coveted OHL Cup, which suits Pearson just fine.
“We (Whitby) plan to work on a couple of things, fine tune our defensive game and continue to play with solid structure but other than that we’ll start the OHL Cup with the right attitude and be prepared to play our best hockey of the season,” Pearson said.
“I believe that we have competed well against several of the top ranked teams in the province and have a chance to do very well at the OHL Cup. It starts with getting out of the round robin then moving forward from that.”
HockeyNow will be covering the OHL Cup on daily basis as soon as the puck drops on the event.
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