A couple of former Trail Smoke Eaters will play in the Doyle Cup and at least one will advance to the National Junior A Championship next month.
The BCHL-champion Prince George Spruce Kings will take on the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) champs the Brooks Bandits in the Doyle Cup starting Friday in Brooks.
Prince George forward Sean Donaldson and Brooks goalie Tanner Marshall started this season with the Smoke Eaters but Donaldson was sent to PG 13 games into the season, while Marshall requested a trade and was dealt to the Bandits on Nov. 29.
After posting a 2-4 record with a 4.51 goals-against average in Trail, Marshall, 19, went 12-0 as a back up with Brooks, registering a 1.33 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. The 18-year-old Donaldson scored four goals and eight points in 37 games with P.G., and scored just once and added four assists in 13 matches with the Smokies.
Normally this best-of-seven series decides who will represent the Pacific Region in the National Junior A Championship tournament (formerly known as the RBC Cup), but since Brooks is hosting nationals this year, both teams have already earned a berth in the year-end competition.
After a six-year hiatus, the Doyle Cup was reintroduced last year with the Wenatchee Wild defeating the Spruce Grove Saints in five games to claim a spot in the then RBC Cup.
This is the first Doyle Cup appearance for Prince George and the second for Brooks, having previously lost to the Penticton Vees in five games in 2012. The Bandits also appeared three times in the Western Canada Cup tournament, which replaced the Doyle from 2013 to 2017 and featured the champions of the BCHL, AJHL, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL). The Bandits finished as a runner-up in 2013 and 2016 and won the tournament in 2017.
The last two times they made the national championship tournament, they were led by former CJHL Most Valuable Player and current Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar.
Brooks ran away from the competition in the AJHL regular season, finishing with a record of 57-3-0 and 114 points, 24 more than their closest competition. After getting a first-round bye, they went 12-3 in the playoffs, capping things off with a four-game sweep over Spruce Grove in the league finals.
Prince George finished second in the BCHL with a 39-13-1-5 record and 84 points, one back of the league lead. They went 16-1 in the playoffs and swept the Vernon Vipers 4-0 in the league finals.
The Spruce Kings have 12 players committed to NCAA Division I programs, while the Bandits have an AJHL-high 17.
The BCHL hosted the start of the 2018 Doyle Cup so this year, it’s the AJHL’s turn to host the start. Games 1 and 2 will take place Friday and Saturday at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks. If the series is tied 1-1, Game 3 will be Sunday in Brooks, but if the series is 2-0 for either team, Game 3 will be Tuesday, Apr. 30 at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in Prince George.
After that, the rest of the series will be played in Prince George with Game 4 guaranteed to be on Wednesday, May 1.