Story by: Jamie Neugebauer, Media Co-ordinator, photo courtesy Hockey Canada
There are times when uncharted waters can be so sweet: for the North York Rangers organization, this is one of those times.
With a 4-1 victory over the Saint John Vito’s Sunday afternoon, the Rangers midgets captured the organization’s first ever national championship, claiming the Telus Cup against the New Brunswick-based hosts.
North York head coach Rob Vessio had a hard time summing up the feeling afterward.
“I can’t really find a way to describe it exactly,” he said.
“It is a little bit of everything. We’re excited, we’re happy, and we are humbled. I am so proud of all of these guys, every one of them bought in, every one of them went to war for each other every step of the way. Everything is amazing, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Aidan Casey’s magnificent season continued with another two goals to lead the Rangers offensively on the day. His first came 7:35 into the first period, on a long wrister that evaded a screened Jake Stewart in the Vito’s net; while his second was the third goal of the night, the sweetener, on a breakaway with 2:16 remaining in regulation to put North York up 3-1.
Defenceman Liam Gillanders’ shot deflected in off a Saint John player at the 9:06-mark of the second period for the eventual game winner; and James Turner had the fourth into an empty net.
Jett Alexander was sensational once again in net for North York, stopping 17 of 18 often-difficult shots.
“The plan was to hush the crowd early,” said Vessio, as the game was played in front of a packed house of 1,700 hostiles.
“They countered, and then there was a long lull in the game. We didn’t want to give up chances like we had in previous games, so we played it patient, because we knew we had plenty of firepower to do that and capitalize when we needed to. Everyone played great, from Jett on out, and that is what you need on a one-game championship like this.
The victory marks the second straight national championship for a Greater Toronto Hockey League club, as coach Brett Punchard and the Toronto Young Nationals claimed the prize last season.
Vessio remarked how much of a help that victory was for his club’s belief, as winning the Telus is an absolutely grueling process.
“Its absolutely huge when you have your peers win,” he said.
“When you sit back, and think that you have some people in place, that we’re not too far off. That was the mindset from the get-go, we didn’t want to think too far ahead, but it snowballed. We are representing the GTHL as a whole for sure. It is history for the making for North York, being the first one that accomplish that and we’re so proud of that.”
Nine Rangers were affiliate players for the North York Junior A club, who’s coach Brent Hughes served as an assistant for Vessio throughout the event.
The game was aired live on TSN.