THUNDER BAY, Ont. – The TELUS Cup West Regional, presented by Windsor Plywood, gets underway Thursday and runs through Sunday at Fort William First Nation Arena as four teams vie for the AAA midget championship and a berth at the nationals later this month in Sudbury, Ont.
Representing the Manitoba Midget Hockey League for a third straight year as champions are the Winnipeg Wild.
They will join the Notre Dame Hounds from Saskatchewan, the Kenora Thistles and the host Thunder Bay Kings at the four-team event.
The Wild look to become the first MMHL side to win the West Regional since 2011 when the Winnipeg Thrashers accomplished the feat and then went on to capture the TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget Hockey Championship.
The Thrashers also claimed the regional back in 2008 joining the 2004 Brandon Wheat Kings and 1991 Winnipeg Hawks are the other teams from Manitoba to earn the title.
Here’s a look at this year’s Manitoba title holders, the Winnipeg Wild:
THE SEASON: The Wild were in a year-long battle with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the quest for top spot during the course of the regular season with Winnipeg eventually prevailing.
They finished with a 41-5-1-1 record with their 84 points putting them two clear of the second place 40-6-0-1 Wheat Kings.
Four of their regular season meetings were against Kenora who they will meet Saturday in round robin play.
They won three of those match-ups, outscoring the Thistles 28-12 in the process.
Moving on to the playoffs, the Wild opened up quarter-final competition against the Central Plains Capitals where they needed four games to take the best-of-five series 3-1.
In semifinal action, they swept the rival Winnipeg Thrashers three straight then proceeded to do likewise to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the final to claim the title.
POINT PRODUCERS: With such a high-powered offense, the Wild boast a plethora of point getters.
Leading his team and league in scoring was forward Kyle Bettens.
The 16-year-old from Winnipeg tallied 40 times and doled out 55 assists for a 95-point campaign.
Teammate Zachary Falck was next on the squad and fifth in the MMHL in offensive production as he totalled 76 points, which included 42 goals that tied him for the most in the league.
Others on the Wild in the Top 10 point producers were Eric Fawkes and Mitchell Joss with 75 and 64 respectively.
GOALKEEPERS: Miles Minor saw the most time in net for Winnipeg as he went 21-6-0-1 in nearly 1,600 minutes of work.
He had a 2.25 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
The club’s other netminder was also stellar as Kadin Kilpatrick was a perfect 20-0-0-0 with a 2.03 AVG and a .907 save mark.
Both goalkeepers posted two shutouts each.
WILD WORDS: The Wild have won three straight Manitoba Midget Hockey League titles. … They are in search of their first TELUS Cup West Regional crown. … Winnipeg enters the West Regional riding an eight-game winning streak. … Dating back to December 6, the club has lost only four times in 36 contests. … The Wild scored an impressive 325 times in 48 regular season games for an average of 6.8 per outing. … They also gave up just 107 markers against, which was the lowest amount in their league. … Kyle Bettens was named a MMHL 1st Team All-Star at forward. … Goaltender Miles Minor was selected as a 2nd Team honouree in net. … The head coach of the Wild is Paul Krueger while Tim Rothwell and Calvin Bugyik serve as his assistants.