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The final five
Field set for 2018 RBC Cup
Jason La Rose
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May 9, 2018
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After 68 days and 512 games, the Road to the RBC Cup is complete.

The Steinbach Pistons grabbed the fifth and final spot, topping the Nipawin Hawks in six games to claim the ANAVET Cup and earn the West Region berth at Canada’s National Junior A Championship. They will join the host Chilliwack Chiefs, Ottawa Jr. Senators (East), Wellington Dukes (Central) and Wenatchee Wild (Pacific) in Chilliwack, B.C., beginning Saturday.

Here’s a closer look at the five teams that will compete for the national title.

HOST TEAM – CHILLIWACK CHIEFS
To say the Road to the RBC Cup has had its twists and turns for the hosts would be a bit of an understatement. Fresh off back-to-back appearances in the BCHL final, and after coming within just one win of a trip to the national championship last year, hopes were high in Chilliwack. But the team won just one of its first eight games as it struggled to a .500 regular season, and were bounced in seven games by Prince George in the first round of the playoffs.

Making their first appearance at the RBC Cup since 2002, and their third overall, the Chiefs will have a new voice behind the bench when the puck drops. They’ll look to repeat the feat of the Cobourg Cougars, who failed to win their league title last year before claiming the national championship on home ice.

EAST REGION – OTTAWA JR. SENATORS
After years of almost-but-not-quite finishes in the CCHL, including consecutive losses in the league final, the Jr. Senators finally climbed the mountain this season. Ottawa posted the best regular-season record in franchise history, going 46-9-7 before beating Pembroke, Brockville and Carleton Place in the playoffs, ending the Canadians’ four-year reign as league champions and claiming its first Bogart Cup in 16 years. The Jr. Senators then went perfect at the Fred Page Cup on home ice, capped by a 10-1 rout of Longueuil to win the East Region title.

The Jr. Senators are on to Canada’s National Junior A Championship for the second time; they went east to Halifax, N.S., in 2002, winning one of four games in the preliminary round before falling 9-7 to the host Halifax Oland Exports in the semifinals in one of the highest-scoring games in tournament history.

WEST REGION – STEINBACH PISTONS
Almost no one did it at both ends of the ice quite like the Pistons, who posted the second-best goal differential in the country at +166 (behind only Terrebonne, at +206) en route to a franchise-record 100 points. Steinbach swept away Swan Valley in the first round before downing Winnipeg and Virden – coming back from an 0-2 deficit against the Oil Capitals to hoist the Turnbull Cup for the second time in six years – and took down the SJHL champions from Nipawin in six games to win the ANAVET Cup and earn the West Region berth in Chilliwack.

The Pistons are in unfamiliar territory, having qualified for their first RBC Cup in their 29th season (including stops in Winnipeg, Sagkeeng and Beausejour), although forward Daniel McKitrick, acquired from Melville in October, helped Cobourg win the national championship last season.

CENTRAL REGION – WELLINGTON DUKES
No team has played more hockey to get to Chilliwack than the Dukes, and no team has come closer to elimination. In all, seven of Wellington’s 30 playoff games have been win-or-go-home, including Game 7s in each of the first two rounds and a long climb out of a 3-1 hole against Newmarket. But the Dukes took out Aurora, the OJHL regular-season champion, in the semis before ending Georgetown’s hopes of a repeat in the Buckland Cup final, and capped their run through the Dudley Hewitt Cup with a 7-4 win over previously-unbeaten Dryden to advance to Chilliwack as Central champs.

It is the third time the Dukes have appeared at the RBC Cup and they’ll be looking for the two wins that eluded them in 2003 and 2011, when they lost out in the national semifinals.

PACIFIC REGION – WENATCHEE WILD
The Wild own the best playoff record among the five remaining teams, dropping just five of 25 games en route to BCHL and Doyle Cup championships. Outside of their win over Vernon in the quarter-finals, where they erased a two-game deficit, the Wild were a playoff juggernaut, taking 3-0 series leads against Merritt, Trail and Prince George to win the league title in just their third season of BCHL hockey, and doing the same against Spruce Grove to upend the AJHL champions and claim the Pacific crown.

The first U.S.-based team to be the best in British Columbia since the Bellingham Blazers in 1979, Wenatchee is just the second American franchise to earn a spot at Canada’s National Junior A Championship, following the 2013 Minnesota Wilderness.

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

Spencer Sharkey
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4567 / 905-906-5327 (mobile)
ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

 

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