Guide to AAA Provincials – March 2023
Posted on March 8, 2023
Lots of hockey going on over the next couple of weekends! Here’s a closer look at some Major Provincial Championships across the island coming up.
Female Hockey NL Web Site for scores, schedules – https://femalehockeynl.ca/index.php
NL U18 Major League Site for scores, schedules – https://nlu18mhl.ca/
NL U13/15 AAA League Site for scores, schedules – https://nlaaahl.ca/
Little Recap of some Provincials from last year (video) – Little Youtube recap here
Hockey Streams NL (game streams) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/199251928429680
Alternative game streams – Western Warriors Facebook page streams live often here
Female U13 AAA (Corner Brook, NL) March 10-12
Preview: The U13AAA female circuit has seen the most variation between the top and bottom-seeded teams. Eastern has had a big year, going 16-0 so far this season with a goal differential of +125. Ladies and gentleman… that is not a typo. +125. This record cannot be attributed to one player or one big line, either. Eastern get it done with superb depth across all positions, including in goal with Russell and Gollop. Central and Tri-Pen have not had much luck cracking Eastern’s code, but Western have been very, very close recently. In 2 of Western’s 3 most recent matches with the ‘Breakers, the scores have been 3-2 and 4-2. Can Western narrow and overtake that gap on Provincials weekend? Only time will tell.
Friday Notes: We did not see any games with our own eyes, but the day shook down much like it did during the regular season. Eastern are 2-0 after Day 1 (typo on web site), the Warriors and Ice and 1-1, and the Central IcePak are still looking for their first win of the Provincial tournament.
Saturday Notes: Central had Eastern biting their nails midway through this game, as the ‘Breakers held onto a 1-0 advantage at the midway point. However, Norah Bambrick (Bam Bam Bigelow? Bam(brick) Margara? Bam Knight? Bam-bi? Who are these people/characters?) decided to bring her goal-scoring stick to the best coast and potted 2 goals down the stretch. Make the final in this one 5-0 ‘Breakers…. I have not seen Tri-Pen play @ the Provincial’s just yet (hopefully on Sunday)…
Sunday Notes: My stream lasted long enough to catch Ailee Young score from the doorstep to make the game 1-0 ‘Breakers in the first period. I caught the highlights long enough to see the speedy Anna Seymour score to make it 2-0, and that is all the ‘Breakers would need on this day to stay undefeated for the entire Provincial season. Ava Russell picked up the shutout in the ‘Breakers crease and was ready when she needed to be. For the Warriors, they were oh so close to slaying the proverbial dragon that is Eastern, but came up short numerous times since the calendar turned to 2023….. In the bronze medal match, Ice forward Jada Fleming was dominant offensively. Her goal with 9 seconds left in regulation to seal the win was a wrister that had flames coming off the back of the puck.
Final Standings: Eastern (First), Western (Second), Tri-Pen (Third)
Male U13 AAA (Metro St. John’s) March 10-12
Preview: This year, there is no juggernaut club like there was in 2021-22 (article about that team here). Instead, we have a very healthy, 6-team circuit where it is anyone’s game heading into tomorrow’s opening bell. On paper, the favourite is the Eastern Knights who sit atop the league standings. However, the Knights do not have to win this thing in order to punch their ticket to Atlantic’s (they are hosting). If the Knights make the Provincial final, the team that meets them there will be going to the showcase of the immortals also (we’re a month away from Wrestlemania, had to reference it indirectly).
The 3 city teams should battle tooth and nail for a spot in the ‘ship, but look out for the Central IcePak as a dark horse. The ‘Pak have trimmed the Hitmen the past 2 times out, and will be ready under veteran coach Shane Lukinchuk’s tutelage.
This tournament makes it very glaring that St. John’s desperately needs a 3 or 4-plex arena. There will be games played @ the Glacier, the Goulds, the Twin Rinks, the Paradise Double Pad, and the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay. Meanwhile in Corner Brook, there’s 3 Provincial titles taking place in one building.
The 5-game round robin with the top-2 seeds advancing to the finals will put a premium on every match. The game which I feel will have a lot of implications will be the Hitmen-Icepak game on championship Sunday.
Friday Notes: The Knights have made everyone else ‘feel their steel’ as their slogan implies, starting 2-0 by virtue of wins over Western and Central. The Knights-Western game was a shootout at the old corral, an 8-6 game that saw some whacky goals. I guess if there’s 14 of ’em in one game, there’s bound to be a few whacky ones eh b’y!…. The Hitmen defeated the Thunder 2-1 at the Twin Rinks on Friday night, which was a very pivotal game. The Thunder’s road to the finals just got a heck of a lot harder, as they will likely have to win out in order to play on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday Notes: Saturday started off with an absolute wild one between Central and the Thunder! Central took a 2-1 lead very late into the third stanza, only to be thwarted by the Thunder with less than 1:30 remaining. The very next shift, the ‘Pak reclaimed the lead and did not let go of said lead. for the Thunder, they will need to win out and get plenty of help the rest of the way to play on Sunday. That Hitmen-Central game tomorrow morning looms large, as we expected it would…. the Hitmen and Knights tying their game today does not puts more teams into the championship foray….
Sunday Notes: This division is an absolute mess right now. The Thunder beat the Knights 4-0, the 0-3-1 Kings tied Central, and the 3-0-1 Hitmen have to take on Central this morning. The ‘Pak have to win this game to force a 3-way tie amongst Central, the Hitmen and the Knights, and based on GF-GA, it would be the Hitmen and Knights in the league final…… The Hitmen disposed of Central 6-2 to punch their ticket to the U13AAA Atlantic Championships! It will be Hitmen-Knights in this afternoons final match, which will be a dandy for sure!….
One would have to think that the real winner of this weekend is the city of Portlan…. wait, most people won’t get this movie quote. The real winner this weekend is the Boland family. On Saturday, oldest son Noah helps the Growlers win their second straight U18 Major title. Roughly 18 hours later, youngest son Jackson scores a pair in a 6-1 Knights win over the Hitmen. 2 AAA Provincial titles ain’t too shabby! The turning point of the Knights season was the Spud tournament, where the newest U13AAA franchise made a deep run….
Final Standings: Knights (First), Hitmen (Second), N/A (third) *no third place game*
Female U15 AAA (Corner Brook) March 10-12
Preview: The Eastern Ice Breakers lead the pack in the standings heading into Provincials weekend, but the Western Warriors refuse to go away and will keep knocking on the door until someone answers them. Central and Tri-Pen have not had super strong seasons, but in a one weekend tournament, all you need is a hot goalie(s) and some bounces. Eastern’s ace-in-the-hole is goaltender Jenny Murphy, who is coming off a 2-win performance at the 2023 Canada Winter Games as a member of Team NL; her one loss coming to ACC Champion Team NB 2-1 in a barn burner. That said, Deer Lake native Sophie Urquhart has had some success against Murphy in recent weekends which could be a very intriguing match-up all weekend long.
Friday Notes: Eastern knocked off Central in their 2-out-of-3 series in 2 games, while Western did the same to Tri-Pen. Western did not receive the same level of resistance from the Ice as Eastern did from the IcePak; the ‘Pak have some sleepers on their team who – with development – are candidates to help the HPP U16 Female program (my opinion, I have no stake in the matter). The ‘Pak took a 1-0 lead in Game 1 and held onto said lead until the 3rd period. With less than 2 minutes remaining, Ava Seymour beat a D 1v1 with her patented outside-in move and went glove side cheese to seal the 2-1 victory for the ‘Breakers.
In the other series, the Warriors big guns were just too much for the Ice. Picking up a goal in Game 1 was Rebecca Patey, a sneaky good player from the Deer Lake area who has size, skill and speed. 3 S’s, how ’bout that.
Saturday Notes: This division does not provide as much content to Hockey Streams NL, which is where this blogger gets a lot of his content. Rogers is great, but I think it takes a couple weeks before I can go back and watch the games after they are completed…. Game 1 of the Finals between Eastern and Western has been evenly-matched. Western got on the board first, but the ‘Breakers tied the game which stayed that way until overtime. From my vantage point, it looked like Ella Rashleigh fired one from the point that hit a body in front and went in to give Western the 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series. Gracie Penney took a much-needed penalty in overtime on a streaking Sophie Urquhart, and the Warriors scored on the ensuing 4-on-3…..
Sunday Notes: There will not be a Game 3! The Western Warriors – in their brand spanking new black jerseys – defeat the Eastern Ice Breakers 2-1 in a tightly-contested series. Eastern scored with 9 seconds left, making everyone clamp up a little bit at the end. But a smart face-off play by Western to finish the hockey game – congrats to Coach Colin and the Western crew!
Final Standings: Western (First), Eastern (Second), Central (Third)
Male U15 AAA (Bishop Falls) March 10-12
Preview: We have said all year long (article here) that anyone – and we mean anyone – can take home the Provincial crown on Sunday. This division is hands down the tightest on the island right now!
Adding to the layer of intrigue is the tournament format. 1st place in the round robin gets a bye to the finals, while 4th place goes right smack down into the consolation bracket. 2 will play 3 in a one-game semi to see who meets the top seed in the final. I kind of like this layout as it rewards the team who finishes first, and puts a major premium on staying out of 4th.
Friday Notes: The way things shook down today has made the next 2 days very, very interesting. With the Thunder and Hitmen going 2-0 on Day 1 and the ‘Pak ‘n Ice going 0-2, tomorrow’s Hitmen-Thunder match is MASSIVE. The winner gets a bye to the final, while the loser meets the winner of the Tri-Pen/Central game tomorrow. The Ice vs IcePak game tomorrow is essentially a win or go home (consolation) scenario. It will most likely be Jayden Lynch’s net for the ‘Pak tomorrow, but Tri-Pen’s crease situation is muddier and will likely be a game-time decision… or maybe a split?…
Saturday Notes: The ‘Battle to not finish 4th’ game was won by the Central IcePak 4-2. Central will move on to play the loser of the Hitmen-Thunder match which is coming up here this afternoon… For the Ice, scoring goals was a struggle all season long. The Three Peninsulas were held to one goal or fewer in 8 games (not including mainland tournaments) in 2022-23…. The Hitmen won the battle of undefeated on Saturday afternoon by a score of 7-1. The Hitmen scored 6 unanswered in the 3rd to punch their ticket to the finals tomorrow! Ethan Jones was a difference-maker in this match, scoring a nice goal in the 3rd and dropping a dime of a pass off a face-off to a wide-open Kaiden Sahajpal to seal the game. This game may have been different if Nate Leonard didn’t make a gigantic rebound save to keep the score 1-1…. In the semi-final between the Thunder and IcePak, the first 10 minutes was spent inside the ‘Pak zone. The score was 2-0 blueshirts, but it could have been much more if it wasn’t for Jayden Lynch’s spectacular goaltending. I turned this one off after the first period – I read 4-2 was the final for the Thunder, which means an age-old Hitmen-Thunder rivalry will add another chapter tomorrow.
Sunday Notes: Central got their lunch handed to them – collectively as a team – in the first period of today’s game… but played strong in the final 2 frames to secure the bronze medal…..
On to the finals, where it was only fitting that the Hitmen and Thunder played to a 1-goal differential. The past 4 Provincials in U15AAA have looked like this: 2-1 Hitmen (2018-19), 1-0 Thunder (2019-20), Thunder 1-0 (2021-22), Hitmen 2-1 (2022-23). Willie Mo Morgan may have made history today, being the first goaltender to win a championship game as the starting goalie for the Thunder, and then the Hitmen the following season…
Final Standings: Hitmen (First), Thunder (Second), Central (Third)
Female U18 AAA (Corner Brook) March 10-12
Scores/Schedule: Social accounts of Central (Facebook ), Eastern (Twitter @AAAmidgetEIB), Tri-Pen (Twitter @aaa_u18), Western (Twitter @U18WarriorsAAA)
Preview: Eastern and Tri-Pen have been battling it out atop the U18 AAA Female mountain all season, with only a couple of points dividing the two. The Icebreakers have won the past 2 meetings between the clubs. That said, we went into the 2022 Provincials with the thought process of ‘it’ll be down between Tri-Pen and Central’ but the ‘Breakers got hot at the right time. Could Western or Central pull a rabbit out of their hats this weekend? Stay tuned.
Adding in another layer of intrigue on Provincials weekend in this division is the Northern (Labrador) team. From memory of coaching the HPP program, there will be some players on that team that all teams need to account for! Northern kick-off the tournament against Tri-Pen on the big ice surface, which will be a litmus test of sorts for them.
Friday Notes: Haley Ryan picked up where she left off the last time she played games in this league, potting a hat trick in a ‘Breakers victory over Western. One has to admire the work of the EIB coaching staff this season; if you follow along on Twitter, you can witness first hand the quality of work that Tony Goobie and Tom Walsh put forth on a daily basis…. The Ice are doing OK too, going 2-0 to start the weekend. There were no upsets today, a stark contrast to this time last year in this division.
Saturday Notes: Tri-Pen were shooters in their morning game vs Western, which resulted in an 12-4 victory. I am of the opinion that if we are in a shooting area in the offensive zone with no one blatantly wide open/in a better position to score than us, we let it hang. I love quick, accurate, hard puck movement and believe that it the lifeblood of the game; but sometimes it’s overdone in the offensive zone to enforce a narrative….. this (I believe) is the first time I have seen Tri-Pen ice their full line-up all season. When their line-up has Akerman, Shute, Dawson, Drover, Pitcher, Sheppard, Pitts, Snow and Crane all healthy, their talent up front is pretty darn deep… Marissa Dawson is a very intriguing prospect; her skating and compete level are coveted next level assets, especially for an ’08 playing U18 as an under-ager….. Western might not be having their best weekend, but defenceman Dayna Genge keeps getting better every time we see her play…. Olivia Sparkes has carried over a strong Canada Winter Games into Provincials…
Sunday Notes: The Tri-Pen Ice brought their work boots to the Pepsi Centre (it’ll always be this to me) on Sunday morning, pressuring the young ‘Breakers defence and forcing them into mistakes. This is a much different Ice team than I studied on tape around Christmas time – they have a full line-up that looks to be brimming with confidence. There were spurts of this game where Aliya Sheppard was absolutely buzzing, showing everyone the kind of talent that she has always had. The pro-Ice crowd was very vocal, with the L-F-G chants ringing echoing throughout the building all game long. Make the final 5-0 Ice, avenging last years defeat on the same surface….
Final Standings: Tri-Pen (First), Eastern (Second), Central (? Third ?)
Male U18 Major
The Pinnacle Growlers hold a 2-0 series lead over the Traction Central Impact in the U18 Major League Finals, which shifts back to Grand-Falls Windsor for Games 3, 4 and 5 if necessary. So far, the Growlers depth has been a problem for Brian Casey’s crew. In Game 1, it was the Kearley line that was a +2 that really drove the bus for the ‘dawgs. In Game 2, the offence came from the back end as Captain Mason Dawe fired home a pair of goals. For the Impact to get back into this series, they need to be more disciplined and get their top guys firing on all cylinders like they were against the Blizz.
Congrats to the Pinnacle Growlers – back-to-back NLU18 Major Champs. Congrats to all players – might only be 1-2 guys on that team that we have not had at VHG.
Final Standings: Growlers (First), Central (Second) **no consolation series to determine third**
League Web Site: https://nlu18mhl.ca/
Pinnacle Growlers Stream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9bNEJV2DHgXw1oz9TXMUiQ
Central Impact Stream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoqIrmM2s6UYcZNkAnpIJdA
Don Johnson Hockey League playoff information can be found here https://www.djhl.ca/index.php
Other provincial events that we have not covered above can be found here https://www.hnlprovincials.ca/