NINE DAYS IN MAY
May 13 to 21, 2017 - The RBC Cup: The “Canadian National Junior A Championships” played throughout the week of May 13 to 21 at Cobourg Community Centre.
The teams qualifying included the media darlings and favourites to win, “Brooks Bandits” from Alberta (West 1) featuring Cale Makar who was touted to go in the top ten in this year’s NHL draft. Also winning their way to the championships were the “Penticton Vees” of BC (West 2) who finished second to the Bandits; the OJHL’s Trenton Golden Hawks (Central) who defeated the Georgetown Raiders in the Dudley Hewitt Cup; the “Cobras de Terrebonne” from Quebec (East) and the host team Cobourg Cougars who were swept by Trenton back on April 6th.
The Cougars finished the preliminary round in first place by defeating Trenton 3-2 in OT; a 3-2 OT loss to Penticton and a 6-1win over Terrebonne; then defeated the Bandits 5-2 who choose to rest their top five players including their goaltender Mitch Benson and defenseman Cale Makar. In their semi-final game the Cougars defeated Penticton 3-1 to meet the Brooks Bandits in the championship final on May 21st with puck drop at 5:30 before a sold out house. The game, televised on TSN was everything it was expected to be with an exhilarating 3-2 overtime Cougar win when at 8:21 Nick Minerva one-timed it past goaltender Mitch Benson from the point on a pass from defenseman Matt Bumstead after Brenden Locke won the face-off in the offensive zone and Josh Maguire got the puck back to the blueline.
Jamie Huber opened the scoring for Cobourg in the first and Brooks’ Connor Jean tied it up. The score remained tied until deep into the third when Bandits captain Nick Prkusik scored a big go-ahead goal with 8:31 left to play. Brooks was closing in on an RBC Cup victory in the third period when Cobourg's Ryan Casselman arguably scored the most important goal in Cobourg Cougar history when he buried a rebound from a Brennan Roy shot with 1:07 to play in regulation time to tie the game sending it into OT. The CCC exploded!
The rest was history for the Cougars, who went on to win their first championship as a Junior A franchise—a national one at that, which was their first since capturing the 1974 Ontario Junior C title. Goaltender Stefano Durante earns the top goalie award and is the final MVP. Spencer Roberts was the leading scorer and top forward for the tournament. Nick Minerva’s stick and gloves are enshrined at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
(Written with notes from Jeff Gard)
A number of graduates from this team moved on to further their education through hockey. Goaltender, Stefano Durante is playing for American International College's Yellow Jackets. Brennan Roy, Jesse Baird, Spencer Roberts and Cobourg native, Josh Maguire were recruited to UOIT by former Cobourg Cougars coach, Curtis Hodgins. Brenden Locke committed to Cornell University and Quinn Syrdiuk to McGill University. Sam Dunn of Hamilton Township played for the QMJHL's Ramparts before joining St. Mary's University Huskies in Halifax and Nick Minerva committed to Aurora College in Chicago. Assistant Coach, Corey Beer is now the Head Coach of the Timmins Rock of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.