From the small town of Eatonia in west central Saskatchewan, just southwest from Kindersley, a 16-year-old hockey player will have his shot of winning a national title with his teammates and coaches.
Cade Hayes, who plays for the Midget AAA Tisdale Trojans of the SMAAAHL, will be competing at the 2019 Telus Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario later this month after the Trojans won the Telus Cup Western Regionals event hosted in Tisdale last weekend. The Trojans went undefeated throughout the tournament featuring the Notre Dame Hounds (Wilcox, Sask.), Brandon Wheat Kings (Brandon, Manitoba) and the Thunder Bay Kings (Thunder Bay, Ontario) as the four teams were vying for the West Region spot to play at the national championship.
After shutting out the Hounds 3-0, the team who won the SMAAAHL championship this year after defeating the Saskatoon AAA Blazers in four games, the Trojans carefully watched the outcome of Notre Dame's semifinal match against the Thunder Bay Kings. Since the Kings are hosting the 2019 Telus Cup, a win for them over the Hounds meant the Trojans would automatically clinch a berth in the tournament. The Kings and Hounds ended up tying the game 1-1, ending with similar records of 1-1-1; due to the tiebreaker rule indicating Thunder Bay scored more goals than Notre Dame in the tournament, Tisdale received confirmation they were going to national midget hockey event.
But the Trojans still had something to play for – the Western Regionals title versus Thunder Bay.
In the Western Regionals Final on Sunday, the Trojans and Kings put on a goal fest in front of the Tisdale crowd, putting 5 goals past each starting netminder to have the score tied 5-5 at the end of regulation. Hayes was able to provide a goal in the contest, but the teams needed to settle the final in overtime.
Despite the Kings knotting the game up with 10 seconds left in the 3rd period, the Trojans were able to take the game in the extra frame. Cade's teammate Dawson Schaff was the overtime hero, and the Trojans won 6-5 to take the tournament in an emotional battle in front of the home faithful.
Cade reflects on what it was like to win the tournament in that fashion.
This is Cade's second year of Midget AAA with the Trojans. Before the jump to midget hockey, he played with the local West Central Wheat Kings in Bantam AA. It meant a lot of travelling throughout the province for games and tournaments, but it allowed him to conitnue to live at home.
Tisdale, which is about half an hour east from Melfort, has been his home for the last couple years, and living away from home has probably needed some adjusting from the young forward. But his family and friends have been there every step of the way, cheering on Cade when they have the chance.
Following Sunday's title-winning game, he mentions what it was like to receive reactions from those closest to him after the game.
Hayes admitted that the opportunity to play in the Telus Cup against some of the best players from across the country is one of his biggest milestones in his career. He knows this is the chance of a lifetime to him to get this far in the season and to potentially end the year with a national championship. And with the possibility of him jumping to the junior hockey ranks as early as this fall, he is wanting to cap off the year by raising the most prestigious midget hockey trophy in all of Canada.
The Eatonia product is property of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors and the SJHL's Melfort Mustangs. After posting 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points between the SMAAAHL regular season and playoffs this winter, improving from 37 points the year before, there's a real chance one of his junior teams considers bringing him on next season.
He says the immediate focus for him now is to help his team win the Telus Cup in Thunder Bay later this month; the Trojans have won the trophy on one occasion back in 2002 when they defeated Dartmouth for gold.
Cade would love nothing more than to win Tisdale's second national championship with his teammates, coaches and staff this spring. In order to acheive that goal, he knows they'll have to amp up their play to a whole new level.
Realistically, Western Regionals was a good tune up tournament for the Trojans to see how they stack up with some of the more difficult sides in midget AAA hockey in Central Canada. Now, they'll be up against five other teams from different parts of the nation to see who will become the 2019 Telus Cup champs on the 28th.
Joining the Tisdale Trojans (West Region) are the Calgary Buffaloes (Pacific Region), Toronto Young Nationals (Central Region), Cantonniers de Magog (Quebec Region), Halifax Macs (Atlantic Region), and the Thunder Bay Kings who are hosting it this year.
The 2019 Telus Cup takes place from April 22-28 from the Fort Williams Gardens. Cade and the Trojans will begin their quest on Day One versus 2018's runners up, les Cantonniers de Magog, at 4:00 p.m. EDT.