WILCOX, Sask. – Devan Praught always felt the Notre Dame Hounds had an opportunity to compete for the 2018 Telus Cup.
His players did not disappoint him.
The Hounds registered a convincing 5-1 victory over the Cantonniers de Magog from Quebec in the nationally-televised final in Sudbury, Ont., on Sunday night. The win also gave the Hounds a record five Canadian midget AAA hockey championships.
“We knew after last year and having seven guys returning – a goalie, two defencemen and four forwards – that we had a really strong core,” explained Praught. “Pieces started to fall into place. Our team is built off 14 returning students, and we had six new students who came in and part of our recruiting ploy to them was we are going to have an opportunity to win a Telus Cup.
“We had a very competitive camp in the fall, and we had 120 kids try out for our team at Notre Dame, and they are all students there. We dwindled it down to 20, and it’s been a great ride. It’s hard to put it into words, but throughout the course of the year you knew you had a team that was deserving of being in the game on Sunday, but there were so many hurdles along the way.”
One of those hurdles was a 3-2 semifinal win over the Toronto Young Nationals in a game the Hounds rallied for two goals in the final 6:19 of the third period.
“To be able to get through our playoffs, then go to the Western Telus and win a one-game elimination final, and then come here and get yourself into a semifinal and earn home ice and first place and be trailing with just over six minutes left and score two goals late, as a coach you see how much the group put in,” said Praught. “I was confident once we were there, we would be able to shine on the biggest stage.”
The Hounds did just that, posting a 5-1 victory over Quebec’s Cantonniers de Magog in the championship game.
The Hounds finished with an overall record, including exhibition and tournament games, of 63-2-4-1 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses). That impressive resumé included 20 straight wins to finish the year, and a regular-season mark of 39-2-1-2.
“You would think we ran the table and blew everybody out,” said Praught. “We had a lot of 6-on-5s against us late in games, but we had guys blocking shots and sacrificing their bodies.
“We were due for one of those games where we up three or four (in the final). It was a bit of a relief to have that kind of a cushion going into the third period.
“I was proud of the guys. Quebec got one right away, we knew they were going to push. We responded well, kept things to the outside and the rest is history.”
Canadian midget AAA hockey championships won by the Notre Dame Hounds: