TORONTO, ONT. -- January 12th kicks off what is likely the most eventful four days of the bantam hockey calendar, as the Port Huron International Silver Stick and THE CUP North American Championship in Buffalo both open their doors to welcome a total of 52 bantam teams from across North America, the vast majority of which fall within the OHL Draft region.
Oakville has title aspirations in Port Huron
Headlining the 32-team field in Port Huron are the Oakville Rangers, who are coming off a very impressive victory at the Marlboros Holiday Classic, a tournament which featured a very impressive field itself. In Port Huron, the upstart SCTA team will face no shortage of challengers, as they'll be in tight with the ISS Kings as the two likely contenders to emerge from Pool G.
The tournament, which features games in Port Huron, Mich. as well as Lapeer, Mich., is one of the best opportunities to see the 02-born Americans competing within their own age group, before splitting up between 15U, 16U, and prep school options in the 17/18 season. With literally every group in the tournament possessing at least a couple of teams who are capable of making it to the quarterfinal round, you can expect no shortage of intensity in the round robin games, as every one is essentially critical.
We'll be taking in games from Thursday through Saturday as we look to put the finishing touches on our initial batch of viewings on the remaining teams in advance of our first Top-200 ranking for the '02 age group, which will be pushed back to a January 23rd release date.
Syracuse headlines the field heading to Buffalo
Port Huron isn't the only bantam tournament to circle on your calendar this weekend, as THE CUP is also set to be contested in Buffalo, which features a quality 20-team field itself. While the tournament field might lack a bit of depth, relative to the Silver Stick, it still features legitimate top-10 teams on both sides of the border and no shortage of high-end players dotted on rosters throughout.
From the American side, Syracuse and Westchester are the obvious favourites as both teams have strong track records in tournament play this season and have the ability to make a serious title run. It'll be our first live look at Mid Fairfield and Buffalo, who are also teams that could very well make some noise in round robin play this weekened.
The Canadian squads are largely backed by the GTHL's Jr. Canadiens and North York Rangers programs, who are legitimate top-10 teams within the province. While they haven't had the best year thus far, Quinte is a team that's also capable of making some things happen as they have some definite talent up front that could make them a factor.
Like Port Huron, Buffalo is also on the travel docket for this weekend from Thursday-Saturday, making this a rather important weekend in the season.
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