Steelers jumping right in

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

It won't take long for the Selkirk Steelers to find out where they stack up at the Royal Bank Cup.

The third-ranked Steelers open the Canadian junior A hockey championship in Prince George, B.C., tomorrow afternoon against the top-seeded Aurora (Ont.) Tigers and then face the No. 2 Camrose (Alta.) Kodiaks on Monday night.

"It'll be a very good indication for us as to where we stand, and it'll be a good indication of how well the ranking system works," head coach Keith Cassidy said last night after the team arrived in the northern B.C. city.

"We probably know as much about the other teams as they know about us, which isn't a whole lot." The five-team tournament has a round-robin format, and the top four squads will qualify for next Saturday's semifinals. The final goes Sunday.

The good news for the MJHL-champion Steelers is the ANAVET Cup winner has made it to the Royal Bank Cup final nine of the last 11 years. The Steelers captured the ANAVET and an RBC berth early on Monday morning when they edged the SJHL-champion Humboldt Broncos 4-3 in quadruple overtime of Game 7.

The bad news for the Steelers is twofold: The ANAVET winner has lost seven of those nine RBC finals since 1996, and, even worse, the MJHL hasn't had a national champ since Selkirk did it way back in 1974.

OFFENSIVELY GIFTED

That's a long time ago. It was the year Cassidy came into the world. The oldest current Steeler was born 12 years later, in 1986. The SJHL has won eight national crowns since then.

The offensively gifted Steelers, led by twins Kyle and Brent Howarth, had one of the most dominant MJHL seasons since the OCN Blizzard won five straight titles between 1999 and 2003.

Selkirk was 49-9-4-1 in the regular season and had an 18-game unbeaten streak between mid-October and mid-December. The Steelers lost only two games during the MJHL playoffs before finally getting by the Broncos.

Cassidy believes the arduous ANAVET series was just what the doctor ordered for his club.

"Humboldt sure made us evaluate what kind of heart and drive and desire we need to win this thing," Cassidy said. "Everybody's committed to giving it their all."

Cassidy hasn't decided who will start in net tomorrow, but both Cody Didychuk, who had a 3-1 record against Humboldt, and Andrew Leslie are expected to see action.

AROUND THE GLASS: Steeler fans can catch all the action on the Internet, as Hockey Canada's website, www.hockeycanada.ca, is offering webcasts of each game for $6.95. The final will be shown on TSN ... There will be two Winnipeggers playing on other teams in the tournament. Forward Jason Yuel, who spent the first part of this season with the Winnipeg Saints, plays for the host Prince George Spruce Kings, while defenceman Connor McGarry is a member of the Aurora Tigers.


Videos

Photos