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The North York Rangers ‘AAA’ Midgets earned a birth in the 2016 Telus Cup in Quispamsis, N.B. by defeating the Whitby Wildcats in the All-Ontario final on Sunday in Waterloo.
Four of the Top 5 point-getters at the OHF tournament were Rangers, with North York Jr. ‘A’ affiliated player William Calverley leading the way with 15 points in the seven contests and earning tournament ‘MVP’ honours.
Head coach Rob Vessio’s squad won six of the seven games in the tournament, which also included the Kanata Lasers, Waterloo Wolves, Sudbury Wolves, and London Jr. Knights.
“I am beyond proud,” said Vessio.
“We set the goal, the bar high right from the get-go this year, and this is what we wanted to do. First, to win the GTHL, and then this was step 2. Kudos to all the second-year guys that bought in, that came back to make this happen; it’s definitely a special feeling. Every team there were good hockey teams, but we didn’t feel like we had to change anything. We wanted teams to adjust to us, and we did that. We have skilled guys, and good defensive guys, good goaltending; so we stuck to our plan, and any type of game we face, we can definitely deal with. A lot of teams had to play run and gun with us, and we came out on top.”
The 2016 Telus Cup, the national midget tournament, features six teams: five from the different national regions (the Rangers will be representing the Central Region) and one host, the Saint John Vito’s. It will run from Apr. 18 – when North York will open up the tournament against the West Region champion Saskatoon Contacts – until the gold-medal game on the evening of Apr. 24, a game that will be aired live on TSN.
Five of the North York midgets played at least one game for Brent Hughes’ junior club this year, including captain Calverley, Jason Pineo, Aiden Casey, Jeremy Smith, and Jett Alexander.
James Turner, Liam Gillanders, Daniel Tsiampas, and Sean Josling were also available to Coach Hughes.
Defenceman Noah Holm played one game for the OJHL’s Toronto Patriots, while right winger William Hunter was an ‘AP’ of the OJHL’s St. Michael’s Buzzers.
“Its so much fun,” said Vessio, of his team’s success.
“And to be the first North York team at this stage means a lot. It’s kind of history in the making, and Im just proud to represent everyone. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but we are just enjoying the moment, and we will figure that out as the time goes on.”
With a 3-3 tie vs. the Vaughan Kings on Jan. 27, head coach Rob Vessio and his Rangers’ midgets clinched first overall in the GTHL. The club earned a record of 22-4-7 over the course of the season, a win percentage of an impressive 78%.
North York also sits second overall in the unofficial All-Ontario rankings, as set out by the 3rd-party site myhockeyrankings.com, only trailing the OMHA’s Richmond Hill Coyotes in that respect.
Vessio’s troops will take on the No. 8 seed Markham Majors in the first round of the playoffs, beginning Feb. 3.
Of the North York Junior ‘A’’s 17 affiliated players, nine play for the NYR midgets; and of those nine, Will Calverley, Jason Pineo, Jett Alexander, and Aiden Casey have all played at least one game for Brent Hughes’ juniors.
The North York Rangers Midget ‘AAA’ club has been slotted in at the top in Wednesday’s latest cross-Ontario rankings, according to the third-party website ‘myhockeyrankings.com’.
Check out the full rankings list here.
The club is the OJHL Rangers’ closest affiliates, with seven of the Junior ‘A’ club’s affiliated players regularly plying their trade for the midgets of the same name.
According to midget bench boss Rob Vessio, the biggest reason for the midget team’s success has actually been off the ice.
“I think the camaraderie in the room has been huge,” he said.
“The boys are really getting along, and it shows on the ice. Even off the ice everyone is having fun, so right now that, and a lot of secondary scoring, is really helping. You add two very good goaltenders on top of that, and we are a hard team to beat.”
Led up front by North York APs Will Calverley, Jason Pineo, Jett Alexander, Liam Gillanders, James Turner, and Jeremy Smith, the midgets have broken out to an 18-4-3 record, and have scored more than double the amount of goals than they have given up.
While the club is deep all over the ice, Vessio notes that he and his staff focused on recruiting one specific area over the others.
“Being an ex defenceman myself, when it came to recruiting we really focused on the D,” he said.
“We are happy with the group we have, and to get guys like Gillanders and even Smith to come back and play midget has been huge. There is still a lot to be learned, but as coaches we really felt we needed to build from the back end out, and it is paying off so far. We have a solid balance right now.”
The NYR midgets usually play Saturdays at Westwood Arena in Etobicoke, and Sundays at Chesswood Arena in North York.
Five current Junior ‘A’ Rangers are NYR midget ‘AAA’ alumni, including captain Jeremy Szabo, Louis Kereakou, Ryan Hunt, Jake DeMaeyer, and Matthew Galli.
By Jamie Neugebauer
The North York Rangers (’98s) Minor Midgets have been given one of six wild-card spots allotted to clubs that will have a one-game play-in with the hopes of making the 2014 OHL Cup.
The Ontario Hockey League, in partnership with the Greater Toronto Hockey League, will host 20 teams in the pinnacle tournament of minor midget hockey in Ontario at Buckingham Arena in Toronto from March 11-16.
North York, which was eliminated in the post-season by the Mississauga Senators, achieved the chance to play in the one-game playoff by having most of its success outside of GTHL regular season play.
“I’m more happy than I am surprised,” said Rangers bench boss Lorne Hunchak. “We were ranked 11th in Ontario, which helped, and we did really well in tournaments around the province. So this is a great chance for our guys.”
Hunchak’s men will find out whom they will face in the wild card round on the evening of March 10, with the game itself to be played the next day either at noon, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m.
The other five wild-card invitees include the Don Mills Flyers (GTHL), Halton Hurricanes (OMHA) and South Central Coyotes (OMHA), as well as the loser of the ALLIANCE semifinal wild card series and the fifth place team from the weekend’s OMHA championship.
They are hoping to join 18 Ontario-based, and two U.S.A.- based clubs in the prestigious tournament.
Major junior and college scouts are always extremely prevalent at the tournament and have tabbed seven Rangers to watch.
Here they are, with a brief note from Hunchak regarding each.
- Michael Botiz (goaltender)
Coach’s note: Michael is a 6’1 lefty that can steal a game. He has great work ethic, he’s extremely focused and is a very technically sound net-minder.
- Luke Kutkevicius (forward)
Coach’s note: Luke has a high hockey IQ. He has silky smooth hands, deceptive speed and a big appetite for hard work. He is one of our more skilled guys.
- William Calverley (forward)
Coach’s note: William is an outstanding leader and captain. He has a tremendous work ethic; he’s very intelligent and will go through the wall for you. He racks up assists fast and had the most points on the team.
- Daniil Vertiy (forward)
Coach’s note: Daniil is a highly skilled sniper with one of the quickest and heaviest shots in the league. He has an outstanding and powerful stride and can skate with anyone at this level.
- Liam Gillanders (defence)
Coach’s note: Liam is rock solid on the back end. He has a very strong shot from the point and is smart, consistent and reliable.
- Connor Cruikshank (defence)
Coach’s note: Connor has a great work ethic and he has very good hands for a young, tough defenceman. He is also very smart and plays a rugged style.
- Jeremy Marco (forward)
Coach’s note: Jeremy is an extremely tough and physical player. He is highly intelligent and will do anything to help his team get the win. Second on team in points and possesses a tremendous work ethic.
Remember to stay tuned to the GTHL website for game times and results and come out as the North York Rangers take on the rest of Ontario!