There will be a new champion crowned at the 2023 Men’s U18 National Club
Championship, with six teams locked in and ready to go in Saint Hyacinthe.
The Atlantic Region champion Pictou County Majors earned the first spot
(other than the host Gaulois de Saint-Hyacinthe) on April 2, and watched
last weekend as the field was finalized for the championship set to begin
on April 24.
Joining the Majors and Gaulois will be the Blizzard du Séminaire
Saint-François (Quebec), Calgary Flames (Pacific), Saskatoon Blazers (West)
and Toronto Jr. Canadiens (Central).
Here is a quick look at the teams competing:
HOST TEAM – GAULOIS DE SAINT-HYACINTHE
Originally scheduled to host the U18 Club Nationals in 2020, the Gaulois
will finally have a chance to show what they can do against the national
competition in front of their home crowd. With a 26-16-0 record that put
them fifth during the LDHM18AAAQ regular season, the Gaulois survived a new
playoff format, winning the Jimmy Ferrari Cup to enter the national
championship as champions. Caleb Desnoyers was the scoring star for
Saint-Hyacinthe, leading the team in points in the regular season and
This will be the second time the Gaulois have played at the U18 Club
Nationals; finishing fourth in 2010 and, in 2003, with Pittsburgh Penguins standout Kris Letang on the
blue line, they went 5-0 in the preliminary round before settling for
ATLANTIC REGION – PICTOU COUNTY MAJORS
The Majors have overcome a lot of obstacles to get to Saint-Hyacinthe. They
knocked off three teams with national pedigrees to win the Atlantic title,
beating out last year’s hosts from Sydney and perennial contender Halifax
to get out of Nova Scotia before ending the Moncton Flyers’ hopes of
repeating as national champions in the regional final. Finishing the
regular season atop the NSU18MHL with the 27-6-2 record, Pictou County’s
depth shone through, led by Lane Lochead, who led the league in scoring in
the regular season and playoffs.
This is the second appearance for the Majors at the national championship,
but the first time they has qualified as Atlantic champs; they hosted in
1997, finishing sixth.
CENTRAL REGION – TORONTO JR. CANADIENS
Following a dominant regular season, the Jr. Canadiens are headed to the
Men’s U18 National Club Championship. Finishing atop the GTHL standings
with 31 wins in 36 regular-season games and close to five goals per game,
the Jr. Canadiens went 14-5 to claim league and regional titles. Led by
Luciano Bruno in the Central Regional, Toronto outscored its opponents
31-15, capped by a 6-3 victory over the host Windsor Jr. Spitfires.
This will be the Jr. Canadiens’ second national championship appearance;
with Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Alex Pietrangelo leading their
back-end in 2006, they finished fourth after a shootout loss in the bronze
PACIFIC REGION – CALGARY FLAMES
After finishing fourth in the AEHL during the regular season with a 23-12-2
record, the Flames turned up the heat in the playoffs, rolling through
Alberta with just three losses in 11 games (finished by a sweep of St.
Albert in the AEHL final), and swept Okanagan in the Pacific Regional.
Joshua Wiebe was the offensive leader from start to finish, leading the
Flames in scoring in the regular season (60 points in 38 games), playoffs
(21 in 10) and regional (seven in two), punctuated by a hat trick and five
points in the finale against the Rockets to help the Flames book their
ticket to Saint-Hyacinthe.
This will be the Flames’ second appearance at the U18 national
championship, 24 years after their silver medal performance in 1999. They
can become the first Alberta team in 10 years to win gold; with the Red
Deer Chiefs were the last in 2013.
QUEBEC REGION – BLIZZARD DU SÉMINAIRE ST-FRANÇOIS
The Blizzard will make the 140-kilometre drive south on the Trans-Canada
Highway for its record-extending 17th appearance at the U18 Club Nationals.
The second-best team in the LDHM18AAAQ during the regular season at
29-11-2, Saint-François earned a place at the Classique des Champions
before falling 5-2 to the Gaulois in the championship game. The offence
runs through Benjamin Chabot, who had 51 points in the regular season, good
for sixth in the LDHM18AAAQ; only one other Blizzard skater recorded at
Last crowned as Canada’s best in 2001, the Blizzard have their sights set
on a fifth national title, which would tie them with the Notre Dame Hounds
for the most ever. That 2001 title was also the last won by a team from
Quebec, with 10 runner-up finishes since then.
WEST REGION – SASKATOON BLAZERS
When the Blazers hit the ice in Saint-Hyacinthe, it will mark 49 years
since they last appeared on the national stage. Finishing the regular
season atop the SMAAAHL standings, the Blazers are no strangers to winning;
they won 35 of 44 in the regular season and lost only twice (both in the
Saskatchewan league final and both in overtime) in 15 playoff games on
their road to nationals, outscoring their opponents 70-27 in the
postseason. Cole Reschny is the name to watch for the Blazers; the
third-overall pick by Victoria in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft had 65
points (23-42—65) in the regular season, good for second in the SMAAAHL,
and added 25 (12-13—25) in the playoffs.
Fourth-place finishers at the very first nationals in 1974, the Blazers
will look to continue a run of success by Saskatchewan teams; nine have won
national titles since the start of the 2000s with three more earning