Today is their opening contest at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship in Wellington, Ont., and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, are ready to go.
The NOJHL champs open up Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Essroc Arena vs. the host Wellington Dukes.
While the Dukes earned a berth as the host club at the four-team event, Gold Miners head coach and general manager Marc Lafleur is fully aware there is no weak squad taking part.
“Every team here is deserving and you cannot take anyone lightly,” stated Lafleur on the eve of the DHC opener.
“Wellington may have got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, but they had the sixth best record in the OJHL,” said the Kirkland Lake bench boss when commenting on the two-time Dudley-Hewitt winning Dukes.
Next up for the Gold Miners will be the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, champions of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.
They will then wrap-up round robin competition Thursday with another 2:30 p.m. matinee vs. the winners of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, the Fort Frances Lakers.
The Kirkland Lake coach will be looking to his veterans to lead the way here this week that has a berth to the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A championship in Vernon, B.C. on the line for the winner of the five-day tournament.
“The 20-year-olds,” offered Lafleur without much hesitation. “We stocked up on quality 20-year-olds this season and we need them to produce, just like they have all season.
Another area the Miners will look to use to their advantage in Wellington is special teams, which is something they excelled in all season.
Leading the NOJHL while on the power play and on the penalty kill during the course of the regular season they also tied for top spot during extra man opportunities in the playoffs and were a close second on the P.K.
“It’s very important to have special team success at tournaments like this and it usually makes a big difference at the end,” claims Lafleur.
No stranger to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Lafleur won one as a player back in 1995 while skating for the Thunder Bay Flyers in his junior hockey days before moving on to compete in the NCAA at Bemidji State University.
Asked to reflect on that experience nearly two decades ago, Lafleur could not help but smile.
“It brings back a lot of good memories for sure. We had a good team and played disciplined.”
Queried whether he’ll offer his charges any insight on his own Dudley-Hewitt Cup experiences, he prefers to let them form their own recollections along the way.
“I’ll tell them to go out and make your own memories. Go out; have fun, stick to the system, play hard and you’ll be okay.”
You can follow the Dudley-Hewitt Cup online via FASTHockey.com on a pay-per-view basis or through the event website at www.dudleyhewittcup2014.com.