For many in the minor hockey world, the kickoff to the Minor Midget campaign is in Toronto at the beginning of September with the Toronto Titans tournament. This is one of the premier tournaments around for junior eligible players. Teams come from across North America to compete for minor hockey supremacy.
In the Alliance, six teams will make their way down to Toronto to take part in the festivities. That is down from the nine teams that participated last season, but the results weren’t flattering for the Alliance in 2014. Combined, all Alliance teams went 12-22-2 during the tournament with only the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs and the Hamilton Huskies having a winning record. This year, the Alliance is being represented by many of the best teams they have to offer. Without further ado, here is what each Alliance team has to look towards during the tournament.
London Jr. Knights:
The Jr. Knights will bring Eric Guest and the rest of their high powered offence into Toronto with a fairly competitive division. They are paired up in Group 3 with both the Whitby Wildcats and the Honeybaked U15 team. London went a disappointing 2-2 during last seasons tournament, which further tells the story of how difficult it is to battle and win this event.
Some would say that London’s tournament opener, Thursday night at 8:30 against Honeybaked is their most difficult game of the round robin portion. Honeybaked has been a powerhouse at the minor midget age group and consistently makes noise during the OHL Cup.
London has the skill and talent that with the other teams in their group, they have a great opportunity to move on to the quarter-final round.
While the preseason didn’t exactly go the way that the Hamilton Huskies had planned, they are hoping the Titans tournament treat them like it did last year. The Huskies went an impressive 3-1 last season, but unfortunately did not advance past the round robin stage.
Hamilton will be the first Alliance team to take the ice on Thursday and they will do so against one of the best teams in Ontario, the Don Mills Flyers. For those new to the scene, Don Mills were the OHL Cup runner-up and have consistently produced top notch talent. So Hamilton is going in already an underdog in the group. The other three teams in the group include Sudbury, Central Ontario and York Simcoe, all teams that Hamilton can defeat.
An opener against Don Mills doesn’t bode well to begin the tournament and the Huskies success will depend how they respond to a tough challenge from the get go.
Of all the Alliance teams in the tournament, Elgin has one of the toughest groups in my mind. They are joined by the Toronto Nationals and the Barrie Colts. This seasons Colts has #7 rated prospect Dennis Busby in their lineup. As said previously, the Chiefs had the best run of all the Alliance squads in the tournament last season.
The Chiefs open up their tournament schedule with a game against the Grey Bruce Highlanders tomorrow afternoon. The tough day will be on Friday when the Chiefs play two games, one against the Colts and the other versus the Nationals. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody if the Chiefs tournament is decided, either positively or negatively, on Friday.
With the team that the Chiefs have assembled, they have all the talent there to make a run this weekend.
When we speak about the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs having one of the toughest divisions in the tournament, it is the Waterloo Wolves who may have the path of least resistance to the quarter-finals.
Waterloo will showcase their collection of new players as well as top goalie prospect Nathan Torchia. The Wolves are in Group 6 with the likes of the Vaughn Kings and the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs of the OMHA. Waterloo will actually open the tournament tomorrow against those Jr. Bulldogs.
The two time defending Alliance champions have never really exploded in tournaments so this could be the year that they finally make their mark on the other Ontario teams. Look for them to claim a spot in the quarter-finals and possibly beyond.
Windsor Jr. Spitfires
As I stated in my preview article for the Windsor season, I do believe that the Jr. Spitfires will surprise many and be a top team in the Alliance this season. In the Titans tournament, Windsor is easily a top two team in their respective group.
A member of Group 8, Windsor is joined by teams such as Wheatfield, Ajax-Pickering and the Southern Tier Admirals. They also share a group with the Toronto Red Wings. It shouldn’t come as a shock to many should the group winner be a contest between the Jr. Spitfires and the Red Wings.
Windsor will open their tournament tomorrow against the Raiders of Ajax-Pickering. Tomorrow night will be the showcase between Windsor and Toronto. While it will be tough, a win over the Red Wings would set the Jr. Spitfires up for a deep run in the tournament.
Lambton Jr. Sting
If this was the World Cup, I think Group 9, which includes the Lambton Jr. Sting, would be titled the ‘Group of Death”. The Sting are in tough because not only do they share a group with the host team, but they also have the Mississauga Rebels in their group. Everything that I have heard about the Rebels is that their team is absolutely stacked this season with plenty of high end junior prospects.
The Jr. Sting went winless in their four tournament games last season and everyone involved with the team is hoping that some degree of success can be had this year.
With the group they are in, it’s hard for me to imagine that Lambton can make a serious run. One positive to take is that the players will get experience taking on some of the best teams the province has to offer this season and that experience can become crucial when they begin the regular season.