Late last month, the St. James Jr. Canucks captured their second straight championship in dominating fashion, sweeping the St. Vital Victorias.
This series capped off what has been an absolutely dominating stretch for the Jr. Canucks, and one the team hopes to continue.
Dating back to the 2021-2022 regular season, the Jr. Canucks have a combined record of 101-11-6 (regular season and playoffs included.) That includes a combined 12-3-1 record in the playoffs.
“When we took over this team eight years ago, our goal from day one was to bring a championship back to St. James,” said team owner and President Justin Steeves. “We want players to come to our organization knowing they will be taken care of and that they will have an opportunity to win every year.”
In 2018-19, the Jr. Canucks suffered heartbreak after a miracle Game-7 comeback led the Pembina Valley Twisters to a 5-4 victory in the championship series.
“That was tough,” Steeves said. “We were gutted when that happened and then to have back-to-back seasons cancelled out by the pandemic it would have been easy to sit around and pout about how tough things were. But that’s not who we are. We were able to put that behind us and focus on the future and that’s exactly what we must do now as well. We will celebrate these championships but soon our focus will turn towards winning more.”
“It’s easier said than done but we are going to work hard to get there.”
Players Pile Up the Points
While the organization doesn’t value personal glory over the team, there have been some exceptional performances from many players during this run, including:
- Defenceman Rory Neill – Neil has played 114 games between the regular season and playoffs for the Jr. Canucks over these two years and has 88 goals and 194 points. His 2022-23 campaign saw him finish with 49 goals and 90 points in 43 regular season games. He capped that off with 11 goals and 11 assists in 14 playoff games. Neill was named MVP for 2022-23 and has been named the league’s best defenceman in back-to-back years.
- Forward Tyrone Willan – The speedy winger has been a force since joining the Jr. Canucks. In these two years he has 73 goals and 128 assists for 201 points in 126 games. In the 2021-22 season he led all rookies in scoring and hasn’t looked back, as he won the scoring title in 2022-23 with 91 points.
- Captain Kale Price – Price is part of a trio of key players who joined the team as 17-year-olds and has set a perfect example of what our organization tries to achieve both on and off the ice. He has 63 goals and 159 points over his past 87 regular season games and has shown his clutch side with 15 goals and 48 points in 27 playoff games. Of those 15 goals, six were game winners.
- Defenceman Brady Whitely – The second part of the three players who joined as 17-year-olds is Brady Whitely, who has been a steady contributor throughout his time with the Jr. Canucks. Combined between the past two regular seasons and playoff runs, Whitely has 124 points in 103 games.
- Goaltender Noah Gilbert – Gilbert has always been solid for the Jr. Canucks since joining as a 17-year-old. He dialed it up a notch in 2022-23, posting a 28-1-0 record with a .919 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average. He went even further in the playoffs, going 12-2-1 with a .925 save percentage and 2.10 goals against average. In the past two seasons he has gone 51-5-4 with a .912 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average.
“All of our players put their bodies and hearts on the line every single night,” said team owner and Treasurer Gavin McLachlan. “We have had a ton of special and talented players come through this organization throughout the years and they have all played a role in building a culture of success.”
“Every player plays a key role on our team,” he continued. “From the guys scoring big goals to the guys blocking shots, throwing big hits, and making simple passes to get the team out of danger, it’s all very important.”
“We’re proud of every player who has suited up for the Jr. Canucks over the past eight seasons.”
Sustained Success Behind the Bench
This year’s outstanding milestones extend behind the bench too, as head coach Blair Mooney picked up his 200th win behind the bench. Since he took over the team, they have posted a 209-93-17 regular season record, have won two championships, and have three finals appearances. A large part of the team’s success is due to his thoughtful leadership and strategic intelligence.
“It’s been awesome coaching this team,” Mooney said. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a great experience with a lot of great memories. We’ve had some really good teams and it’s very special that we’ve been able to the ultimate job done the past couple years.”
The Future is Bright
Despite having one of the most dominant years in league history, the Jr. Canucks are only losing two players due to age.
The first, Zach Greenwood, is a four-year vet who has been a steady contributor and leader for the Jr. Canucks since he joined the team. In the 2022-23 season he set career highs in goals, assists and points. He was also over a point-per-game during this past season’s playoff run.
The second is Ethan Robson. Although he only spent one year with the team, his offensive contributions were evident immediately. After two seasons in the SJHL, Robson burst onto the scene with the Jr. Canucks, scoring 23 goals and adding 34 assists in 38 games. He followed that up with 18 points in 12 playoff games.
We want to thank both of these players for their contributions to our team and organization!
We hope you will join us for our 16th annual Sportsman Dinner and Awards Night at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park. This year’s dinner takes place May 25th at 6:00 pm. You can find out more information here.
Registration is also open for our Fall Development Camps! You can learn more here.
We will be posting details about our 2023 Golf Tournament in the coming months.
As for what’s next on the ice?
“We have a lot of conversations we still need to have with people inside the organization, but we are going to start that process soon,” Steeves said. “We’re constantly planning and trying to improve and we hope to bring a third straight title to St. James in 2024.”