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Coral's national Jr A champion
Daniel McKitrick part of RBC Cup junior A win

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

There are few moments more precious for parents than seeing their children succeed. Bruce and Leonie McKitrick of Coral Harbour shared one of their son Daniel's biggest moments in Cobourg, Ont., this past month.

NNSL photograph

Daniel McKitrick of Coral Harbour displays his medal after his Cobourg Cougars captured the RBC Cup to become national junior hockey champions in Cobourg, Ont., this past month. - photo courtesy of Bruce McKitrick

The McKitricks were among the thousands going crazy in the stands of the Cobourg Community Centre when Nick Minerva's slapshot gave the Cobourg Cougars a 3-2 overtime win over the heavily-favoured Brooks Bandits to capture the 2017 RBC Cup and national Junior A hockey championship.

The Cougars hosted the tourney in Cobourg from May 13 to 21 and Bruce said he and his wife were there for the entire eight-day, rollercoaster ride of emotions.

"We watched the team's four round-robin games, semifinal and the final, and, while it was often intense, it was a whole lot of fun," said Bruce.

"The crowds got bigger and bigger as the days went past and the Cougars were still hanging in there.

"Their first game was against Trenton - Cobourg is located close to Trenton - and it was pretty full with a lot of Trenton fans cheering for their team, and it was almost a sellout for the final."

According to national Junior A rankings, the Cougars' win over the Bandits was an upset of epic proportions, with Brooks rated number one and the Cougars 20.

But Bruce said he knew the Cougars were a strong team capable of beating anyone on any given night.

"It was a very high calibre of hockey that was fast and exciting," he said.

"The teams moved the puck well, the goaltending was great and the games were all very exciting, because the teams were so evenly matched."

Bruce said the crowd may have been a little laid back during round-robin action, but it came alive for the semifinal and the final especially.

"After the Cougars won it, we spent more than an hour on the ice talking with Dan, posing with the Cup and talking with his teammates, coach (John Druce) and even the owner of the team," he said.

"I'm just so glad we were there and didn't miss it, because it's such a big piece of Daniel's life."

Daniel, who turns 20 this month, actually started the season playing for the Humbolt Broncos in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

He said he was traded to Cobourg about two weeks before Christmas, and was immediately pumped about the prospect of playing in the RBC Cup tournament.

"The trade was a complete surprise to me because I was having a good first half of the year with Humbolt, so I didn't think I was going to be traded at all," Daniel said.

"I guess Humbolt was looking for more size in the lineup when the trade was made, but I thought at the time I'll take it because being traded to a RBC Cup team was pretty exciting.

"I had a lot of good buddies and friends in Humbolt who I'm going to miss, but, at the same time, I was happy to move to such a good team and have the opportunity to win the RBC Cup."

Daniel said the Cobourg players weren't having any of the underdog talk about them leading up to the tournament.

"We knew everyone was saying we probably wouldn't win a game, but we also knew we were a good hockey team that could play with anybody, so we practiced hard for a month and then we really showed what we had out there," he said.

"I've never seen anything like the crowd we had for the final. With everything being super loud the entire game and the roar every time you touched the puck, it was just an awesome atmosphere.

"In overtime I remember the pass coming across, the slapshot being taken from inside the blue line and the net bulging, then we were all on the ice celebrating in, like, complete joy."

Daniel said he's going to relax during the summer and weigh his options for next season, with a strong eye cast in the direction of Western Canada.

"During the next few years, I hope to end up playing in Division 1 of the NCAA in the States," he said.

"If that doesn't happen, I'll probably play university hockey in Canada and get some schooling done too.

"Hopefully, I might get to play overseas one of these days, maybe in the German league or the Swiss league."

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