Any opportunity to see some of the top Ontario teams compete against their high-end foes from the USA is always something you want to mark down on the calendar, and in this instance, the Mississauga Rebels Border Battle more than lived up to the hype. With a field of five Canadian teams and six from the States, the format calls for cross-over play between teams from each respective country with a five-game guarantee.
Rebels run the table
A team that has lost only one game all season continued their remarkable run of dominance with a convincing 5-0 record against teams including Detroit's Belle Tire (Tier 1) and Compuware (HPHL) as well as the highly-ranked Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers and their Atlantic counterparts, Boston's Minutemen Flames. While some games were convincing, such as a 5-1 win over Mid-Fairfield, the Rebels found themselves against the same wall they so often are able to rally from with two highly impressive come-from-behind third period victories against Belle Tire and Compuware.
Led by their impressive quartet of defenseman with Case McCarthy, Duncan Penman, Michael Vukojevic, and Evan Brand, the Rebels boast one of the more capable groups of defenseman you'll ever find one a single minor hockey team. Up front, Philip Tomasino was an offensive sparkplug as he managed to put some offensive inconsistency of recent weeks in the past with four goals in five games. Pint-sized forward Ty Jackson was also more than noteworthy as his tenacity on the forecheck paid off in spades at several critical moments, culminating in a very tidy six points in five games.
Rees puts age group on notice
Not to be outdone by their GTHL rivals, the Mississauga Reps were equally impressive through five games, only suffering a 4-2 blemish at the hands of Belle Tire. Unsurprisingly, dynamic centre Jamieson Rees led the way for the Reps with a tournament-best seven goals and 12 points in only five games played.
Rees, who is prone to some wavering in his effort level when it comes to league play, has really ramped his level of play up in recent weeks and that difference was clearly apparent against some very formidable competition where he managed two hat tricks and wasn't held off the scoresheet in any of the five games. Despite possessing less than ideal size at this juncture, Rees' playmaking ability and enticing play in the offensive zone makes him one of the biggest scoring threats in the entire age group - skills that were on full display at the Powerade Centre.
Eastern states well represented with high-end prospects
Not to be overshadowed by their OHL territory peers, several prospects from the Eastern states in the QMJHL territory made considerable impacts during the showcase as well. Perhaps most noteworthy is a player - or should we say goaltender - that would be very hard to miss.
6-foot-4 Spencer Knight has all the size you could ever want from a goaltender but it only gets better from there as the Boston College commit might be one of the most polished goaltenders to make his way through minor hockey ranks. It's high praise, indeed, but in the case of Knight it's more than justified. Knight does a terrific job of maintaining positioning in the crease and his quick agility and post-to-post movement leave little room for shooters to find holes. While you never want to put too much stock into projecting the pro potential of a 14-year-old player, at this point Knight would be about as big of a slam dunk as you'll ever find for a minor hockey goaltender.
His Mid-Fairfield teammate Ryan Pineault is a very smooth-skating defenseman with great rushing instincts that will surely be coveted by the Northeast's top-end NCAA programs and also projects as a very legitimate NTDP candidate. Up front, Trevor Zegras is actually an OHL eligible player based on his New York hometown residency, and he showed no shortage of offensive flair as an impressive playmaker to lead the team in scoring.
For the Minutemen Flames, centre Liam Connors may not have ideal size but his attacking ability with the puck makes him a threat everytime he's on the ice and his ability to create offense out of seemingly broken plays was also well noted.
Overall, Mississauga's Border Battle ultimately went to the "home"town teams (the games were played in Brampton, afterall) but the showcase format presented a great opportunity to see some of the top Canadian and American players in the age group compete head-to-head.