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Circle K semifinals set with Ontario’s Burlington Eagles flying high

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The Burlington Eagles have come west to the Circle K Classic, sporting more than just the colors of their region’s representative hockey.

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They fly the Ontario flag, the only club from that province in the 32-team international tournament.

And they hope to prove to outsiders that they belong to the Calgary-hosted event.

“It’s important for us to show that we can play with anyone across Canada,” said Eagles head coach Mark Corbett. “I think sometimes people speak badly about representative programs in Ontario and the caliber of hockey there.

“Some people say our competition is a little weaker in Ontario. But we know what we have in the dressing room and we’re just trying to prove people wrong.”

One thing they have proven so far in The Circle K…

That they definitely belong in the announced tournament for 18-year-old talents.

After Friday’s late win over the Northern Alberta Xtreme, they are in the semifinals of the championship round with the Calgary Buffaloes, Shawnigan Lake School and defending champions South Alberta Hockey Academy in the bottom four.

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The Eagles eliminated NAX, an Edmonton-based athletic school, 4-0 at the Max Bell Center and proudly claimed at least that point in the six-day event.

“Over the years we’ve heard it’s one of the best U18 tournaments in almost all of North America,” Corbett said. “They have teams from Europe and the United States and from all over Canada, so to be invited to this tournament is just a great testament to what we’re trying to achieve with the program.

“And I tried to explain to the guys that we don’t just represent Burlington, we represent Ontario as a whole. We’re just trying to show that hockey in Ontario is as good as hockey out west and to be proud of that.”

They also pay attention to all of this at home.

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Corbett receives daily messages from alumni and parents of former players following the Eagles’ progress in Calgary.

Of course, that has been outstanding so far after a 3-0 round robin in which they beat the Vancouver NW Hawks 6-0, doubled the St. Albert Raiders 4-2 and left the Edmonton Oilers Blue looking empty 3-0. That got them through to Friday’s quarterfinals, in which they got a second-half goal from defender Adam Varga, third-half insurance from forward Ben Theron – while they were shorthanded – and then icing on the cake goals from Aiden Treanor and Theron – into an empty net – to earn a place in the semifinals. Goalkeeper Ben Hrebik was super sharp between the whistles with 46 saves for the winner.

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“Every game here is a new experience for us,” said Corbett. “Because we haven’t played against any of those teams.”

Notably, playing against – and beating – a gym school squad is rare for the Ontario team.

“We just play in the league,” Corbett said. “Some don’t want to play against us and look bad and vice versa with the sports school teams. So out in Ontario we only play repeat teams and the prep teams play the prep teams.

“I love playing in the prep schools,” Corbett continued. “Sometimes I think they undermine rep hockey by saying they have more to offer and are more on the ice. But I feel we’re getting out of here, we’ve shown we can play with these schools. We want to show that our ice hockey is just as good – just different. This tournament really showed that.”

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It looks like there are two representative teams and two gym teams in Saturday’s Final Four after Friday’s quarterfinals.

Those representatives are, of course, the Eagles and – in a happy turn of events for the host city – the Buffaloes of the Alberta Elite Hockey League.

And it’s the return of the reigning South Alberta Hockey Academy champion, who joins them alongside fellow Vancouver Island gymnasium Shawnigan Lake.

SAHA, of Dunmore, Alta., knocked out BC’s Yale Hockey Academy 4-0 in a battle against rivals the Canadian Sports School Hockey League on Friday. The BC sports school Shawnigan Lake won 4-3 against the Saskatoon Contacts from the Saskatchewan U18AAA league.

And the Buffaloes beat Team Hungary 7-2 on goals from Willy James – with two goals – Lauchlan Kozicky, Danny Schmirler, Carson Reagen, Carter Anderson and Caden Kemkaran-Humble.

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“As the tournament goes on, the competition just keeps getting better,” added Corbett. “Many parents say this is the best minor hockey they’ve seen in a long time. There is no such thing as an easy game. The competition was incredible. It was end-to-end hockey, tight hockey and hard hitting. It raises our level of play to another level.”


The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday. Championship bracket games are at 4pm – with Burlington vs SAHA at 4pm at Max Bell and the Buffs vs Shawnigan Lake at 4pm at 7 Chiefs… The day begins with the semifinals at the D -side at 10:00 a.m. – in the Vancouver NW Hawks vs. Fraser Valley Thunderbirds at 7 Chiefs and the St. Louis AAA Blues vs. the Okotoks Oilers at Max Bell – and on to C-side semifinals at 11 a.m. – Chicago Mission vs. Bishop Kearney Selects at 7 Chiefs and Edmonton Oilers Blue vs. the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes at Max Bell – and the B-Siders at 1 p.m. – the St. Albert Raiders vs Edge School at 1 p.m. at Max Bell and the Okanagan Rockets vs. Regina Pat Canadians at 1 p.m. at 7 Chiefs … The respective D, C and B bracket finals are scheduled for Sunday at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and noon before the championship begins at 3 p.m. – all at Max Bell’s.

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