By Sam Laskaris
MISSISSAUGA—A half dozen Anishinabek players will be among those hoping to help the Ontario boys’ team capture some hardware at the upcoming National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC).
The 22-player roster was announced this past April 14.
The squad will compete at the national tournament, which will be held May 1-6, in Cowichan, British Columbia.
The Ontario lineup will include four Anishinabek players that spent the 2016-17 season with the French River Rapids, members of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL).
They are forwards Greg Trudeau-Paquet, Will Michaud, Alex Paul and defenceman Braydon Crowe.
Trudeau-Paquet is from the Wikwemikong First Nation, Michaud is a member of the Nipissing First Nation and Crowe is from the Alderville First Nation.
“We’ve got a strong team going,” said Trudeau-Paquet, who will be making his third appearance at the NAHC. “We have high expectations to bring back a medal.”
The other Anishinabek players on the Ontario roster are defenceman Dawson Nootchtai and forwards Emile Cyr and Hunter Chiblow.
Nootchai, a member of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, played high school hockey with the St. Benedict Bears in Sudbury.
Cyr, from Nipissing First Nation, played with the Athens Aeros, who compete in the Central Canada Hockey League Tier 2, which is the equivalent of a Junior B circuit.
Chiblow, from the Mississauga First Nation, played with the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, a Midget AAA squad.
Ontario’s roster will feature a total of 10 players that suited up for a junior team this season. This list includes seven Junior A players, a pair who took part at the Junior B level, and one who participated for a Junior C squad.
Trudeau-Paquet, who will be counted on to provide plenty of leadership and is undoubtedly a candidate to be named the club’s captain, is thrilled that he’ll be making another appearance at the NAHC.
“It’s pretty exciting, especially being in B.C. too,” he said. “It should be a great experience.”
Trudeau-Paquet and his teammates just missed out on a medal at the 2016 nationals, staged in Mississauga. Manitoba defeated Ontario 6-1 in the bronze-medal contest.
Crowe, who was also on the 2016 Ontario squad, is keen to pass on his tournament knowledge to his teammates who will be making their NAHC debuts.
“I’m going to have to come in and be a bit of a leader,” he said. “Last year I was new and I didn’t know what to expect.”
Members of the Ontario squad converged in Mississauga last month for a practice, which was held during the Little Native Hockey League tournament.
“We seem pretty confident,” Crowe said. “We had a practice and the team looks pretty strong.”
Crowe believes the club is primed for success this season as the club’s defence should be better than it was a year ago.
“Our offence was solid last year, but our D core let us down as the tournament went along,” he said.
Like last year, the NAHC will feature eight clubs in the boys’ division.
Besides Ontario and Manitoba, also taking part will be teams representing British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
Also taking part will be a Quebec-based squad called Eastern Door and the North as well as Team Atlantic, comprised of players from the country’s four easternmost provinces, and Team North, which will include players from Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.