Vernon’s Nic Bolin (13, with puck) and fellow Vernonite Lucas Piekarczyk have helped the Red Lake (Ontario) Miners of the Superior International Hockey League reach the Centennial Cup (formerly RBC Cup) Canadian Junior A Hockey championship tournament in Estevan, Sask. (RedLakeMiners.com)

Vernon’s Nic Bolin (13, with puck) and fellow Vernonite Lucas Piekarczyk have helped the Red Lake (Ontario) Miners of the Superior International Hockey League reach the Centennial Cup (formerly RBC Cup) Canadian Junior A Hockey championship tournament in Estevan, Sask. (RedLakeMiners.com)

Vernon duo mine chance for Centennial Cup

Nic Bolin and Lucas Piekarczyk have helped Ontario’s Red Lake Miners to the national Junior A hockey finals

It’s hard to say what Nic Bolin will remember most about his final year of junior hockey.

Perhaps COVID that went through his team. Maybe the plant breakdown at the local arena which forced home games to become road games, and practicing outside in -35 C weather.

Or it could be the fact he, fellow Vernonite Lucas Piekarczyk and their Red Lake (Ontario) Miners teammates from the Superior International Junior Hockey League are playing in the final event of the year, the Centennial Cup (formerly RBC Cup) National Junior A Championship, which begins Thursday, May 19, in Estevan, Sask.

“To be playing for the Centennial Cup is super exciting, for sure,” said Bolin, who turned 21 in March. “We’ve got a really good group of guys, the coaches are awesome and we’ve gone through so much this season.”

The Miners played only 37 regular season games the last two seasons due to COVID. And for a month in 2021-22, they had no home arena after its cooling system broke. That forced the team to go on the road and go outdoors.

“The closest rink for practice was about 45, 50 minutes away and even then we had to go to an outdoor rink to practice and it was about -35 degrees,” laughed Bolin, in his second year with the Miners.

Bolin had 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points in all 37 regular-season games for Red Lake, then added 3-5-8 in the team’s run to the championship.

Piekarczyk, who could not be reached prior to the team departing for Estevan, had 14-12-26 in his rookie season with the Miners, and had two assists in seven playoff games as he battled through some injury issues.

Both Vernon players have made an impact with the Miners.

“Both have been big contributors,” said Red Lake head coach and general manager Geoff Walker. “Both play top-six minutes, though Lucas was injured for a stretch. Nic is a leader, he wears an ‘A’ on his sweater. He’s a great 200-foot forward, does it all up front.”

The Centennial Cup tournament will be the largest in the event’s history, featuring 10 teams – nine league champions from across Canada and the host Estevan Bruins, who won the Saskatchewan Junior League title in seven games over Flin Flon. The Bombers also receive a berth into the tournament.

The B.C. Hockey League opted out of the Canadian Junior Hockey League and will not be sending its champion to Estevan.

The Miners open up Thursday against the Ontario Junior League champion Pickering Panthers. They will also play the defending Canadian champions Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior League, the host Bruins and the Kuebec League champion Le College Francais de Longeuil.

Other teams in the tournament include the Ottawa Jr Senators (Central Canada Hockey League), Summerside (PEI) Western Capitals (Maritime Hockey League, Dauphin Kings (Manitoba Junior Hockey League), Soo Thunderbirds (Northern Ontario Hockey League) and the Bombers.

The championship game is slated for Sunday, May 29 at 2 p.m. Pacific time.

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roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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Vernon’s Lucas Piekarczyk (left) and Nic Bolin (second from right) have helped the Red Lake Miners of Ontario and the Superior Iinternational Junior Hockey League reach the Centennial Cup (formerly RBC Cup) national Junior A championship tournament starting Thursday, May 19, in Estevan, Sask. (Contributed)

Vernon’s Lucas Piekarczyk (left) and Nic Bolin (second from right) have helped the Red Lake Miners of Ontario and the Superior Iinternational Junior Hockey League reach the Centennial Cup (formerly RBC Cup) national Junior A championship tournament starting Thursday, May 19, in Estevan, Sask. (Contributed)