Some of the best 14-year-old hockey players in the province are coming to the historic Allman Memorial Arena next week.
The 2014 All-Ontario Bantam ‘AAA’ championship will be hosted by the Huron-Perth Lakers from Monday, Mar. 31 to Saturday, Apr. 5.
The 25-game, week-long event will showcase teams from all three Ontario branches of Hockey Canada. A total of seven teams will compete in a round-robin format, including the host Lakers.
The H-P Lakers are coached by former NHLer Merlin Malinowski, who was recently announced as the new bench boss of the GOJHL’s St. Marys Jr. ‘B’ Lincolns.
“We’re hoping to compete each game,” Malinowski told the Gazette this week. “For us to win it, we’d have to be like the 1980 U.S. Olympic team (which won gold in Lake Placid, New York). That’s what we’re facing and that’s what our chances are. We’re facing six champions.
“I’m just hoping we can give ourselves a chance in games by keeping the scores down and staying close. If we could ever get a chance to get to the semi-finals and play for the bronze medal, that would be phenomenal,” he admitted.
Lakers’ preliminary schedule
The Huron-Perth Bantams open with two games on Monday, playing the Northern Ontario champion at 11 a.m. and Thunder Bay Kings from Hockey Northwestern Ontario at 8 p.m.
On Tuesday, Apr. 1, Lakers play the Alliance champion at 1 p.m.
On Wednesday, Apr. 2, Huron-Perth plays OMHA champion Quinte Red Devils at 1 p.m. and Ottawa Jr. 67s from Hockey Eastern Ontario at 7 p.m.
Lakers’ final round-robin game is Thursday, Apr. 3 against the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) champion at 11 a.m.
The playoffs are Friday, Apr. 4 and Saturday, Apr. 5. The semi-finals are 12 noon and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, and the championship game is Saturday at 2 p.m.
Lakers team members
Members of the Bantam Lakers are: goalies Baily Paquette and Brock Baier; defencemen Rhys Vollmer, Kade Landry, Tanner Hertel, Ben Derrough, Isaiah Waxman and Carter Collinson, and forwards Kyle McClinchey, Tanner Johnson, Logan Kellington, Ashton Stockie, Blair Butchart, Will Thibeault, Noah Kuno, Scott Stovel and Jacob Rooke.
Paquette, Johnson, Stockie, Hertel, Waxman, Thibeault, Kuno and Stovel are all Stratford residents.
In addition to Malinowski, Jamie Baker and Chad Forbeck are the other members of the Lakers’ coaching staff. Russell Cross is team trainer.
There’s a very good chance that Toronto Nationals will represent the GTHL. Nats are coached by former Maple Leafs’ great Wendel Clark and his son is a member of the team. At press time, Nationals were up seven points to three on Toronto Marlies.
Note: Current Huron-Perth Lakers ‘AAA’ Minor Midgets head coach David Schlitt has been named an assistant coach of 2015 Team Ontario that will participate in the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. next year. They are being held Feb. 13 to Mar. 1, 2015.