PENTICTON, BC –The five team field for the 2017 Western Canada Cup, presented by Sun Life Financial, is set and it may just be the deepest one yet.
The five teams competing in WCC are the host Penticton Vees,Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL), the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) champion Brooks Bandits, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) champion Battlefords North Stars and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) champion Portage Terriers.
The five-team tournament field was finalized Wednesday after both Battlefords and Portage won their respective league championships.
The North Stars swept the Flin Flon Bombers, beating them 6-5 on the road in the decisive Game Four of the SJHL Final. It’s the North Stars first Canalta Cup championship in 17 years, and they are the first team in 35 years to sweep all three rounds of the SJHL playoffs. They dominated the regular season as well, posting 48 wins in 58 games, finishing with 97 points, which was 14 points better than the next closest team.
One province over, the Portage Terriers “three-peated” as MJHL Turnbull Cup champions, beating the OCN Blizzard in six-games. The Terriers punched their ticket to Penticton with a 1-0 win in Game Six over OCN and in front of a sold out Stride Place in Portage la Prairie Wednesday night. The Terriers, who won the RBC Cup in 2015, weren’t necessarily the odds-on favourites to come out of the MJHL, as they were the fifth seed entering the playoffs, but they did knock-off the top ranked Steinbach Pistons en route to the Manitoba title. With their win this year, the Terriers have now won the MJHL championship in seven of the last ten seasons.
Earlier this week the Brooks Bandits won their second consecutive AJHL championship and fourth in franchise history, sweeping the Whitecourt Wolverines in the Gas Drive Cup Final. Like Battlefords, the Bandits were the top team in the AJHL from start to finish, capturing the regular season title with a 51-5-4 record for 106 points. They led the AJHL with the most wins, fewest losses, most points, most goals for and fewest goals against. Last year the Bandits advanced all the way to the RBC Cup national championship, before losing out in the Semi-Final.
The Chilliwack Chiefs and Penticton Vees are currently facing off in the BCHL Fred Page Cup Final, with the Vees holding a 3-1 series; Game Five is Saturday in Chilliwack. The Chiefs finished second overall in the regular season with a 41-11-0-6 record for 88 points. They beat the Langley Rivermen in the opening round of the playoffs, before sweeping the top-seeded Wenatchee Wild in the Mainland Division Final. Chilliwack earned their spot in the BCHL Final after downing the Victoria Grizzlies in six-games.
The Vees finished two points back of Chilliwack in the overall standings with a 41-13-1-3 record, but captured their sixth consecutive Interior Division regular season title. Penticton is back in the league final after beating both the Merritt Centennials and Vernon Vipers in seven games. The Vees are trying to win their third BCHL title in the last seven years.
The 2017 Western Canada Cup, presented by Sun Life Financial, runs April 29th to May 7th at the South Okanagan Events Centre.