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Oakville Rangers win 2024 OHL Cup

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 03/30/24, 6:45PM EDT

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Crowned best U16 AAA team in all of Ontario

With files from the Ontario Hockey League:

In a Saturday matinee in front of a packed house at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the Oakville Rangers shutout the Vaughan Kings 1-0 to capture the 2024 OHL Cup presented by FPS Payment Championship, being crowned OHL Cup champions for the second time.

Scoreless through the first 15 minutes, Vaughan came out flying, earning the game's first power play 40 seconds in. Oakville netminder Jake Ceranic held the Rangers in the game despite their being outshot 12-3 in the opening period.

Forward Matthew Ross (2) would break the deadlock with 1:21 left in the second period with what would turn out to be the game-winner. Ross scored on a shot through traffic on the power play after some great passing from Christian Armstrong and Callum Croskery.

"We got that power play there, and from there we were able to go to work," said Ross. "Callum (Croskery) made the pass over to Christian Armstrong, sent a great pass over to me. I was able to settle it down, and just ripped it low glove and kind of blanked out after that."

With the lead, the Rangers knew they were going to get Vaughan's best in the third. With some big shot blocks and outstanding goaltending from Ceranic, the Rangers were able to keep the Kings off the scoresheet. "My defence were giving me good looks, no screens and blocking tons of shots. They were solid in front of me. From there I was able to shut the door, and we pulled it out," said Ceranic as he praised the guys in front of him.

"We've always harped on defence-first hockey and staying below the puck. So I knew once we got the lead we were not going to sell that and we were going to win the game once we got the lead," said top prospect Ethan Belchetz highlighting his groups confidence while playing with the lead. Known as a highly offensive team with tons of skill and speed, the Rangers put up 32 goals-for prior to the final, but put their defensive game on display on Saturday afternoon.

Oakville head coach Mike Derenzis highlighted the meaningfulness of this win to his team. "Vaughan's an outstanding team. We've always said we're not the top team until we knock them out in a championship like this."

We knew we were in tough, I can't say we expected to shut them out," he added. We were going to try everything we could, but our goaltending was outstanding, our players blocked a bunch of shots, they sacrificed for one another. They battled, they competed and I'm so happy for them."

"It's the best feeling in the world, I moved down from Sault Ste. Marie when I was 14 to play for this team. It just means the world to me to be able to cap off a great minor hockey career," said Evan Headrick who has been part of the Rangers program since his U14 season.

The championship puts the cherry on top for a group of Oakville players that have played together for the past three seasons. "These guys are like family to me. I love them. They're all brothers and Mike (Derenzis) is basically my father. I've known him since forever. This was the group to do it. We were a tight-knit group and these guys are my brothers," said Belchetz.

Jake Ceranic (25 SV) was named Zephyr Player of the Game for the Rangers, while Ethan Belchetz was named 2024 OHL Cup MVP. Belchetz and defenceman Callum Croskery were named to to the All-Star team.

After losing their first game of the round robin to Vaughan in overtime, the Rangers would go on to to defeat the York-Simcoe Express, Sun County Panthers, and TPH Hockey to advance to the playoff round. Oakville would win close games against the Barrie Jr. Colts, who they lost to in the semis at the OMHA Championships, and North York Rangers to advance to the final against Vaughan, improving to 6-1-0 to win their second OHL Cup title in the organization's history.

The Rangers are the first OMHA team to win the OHL Cup since the York-Simcoe Express in 2016. Since switching to the U16 age group format in 2003, other OMHA teams to capture the OHL Cup include the Oakville Rangers (2013), Markham Waxers (2006) and York-Simcoe (2004). The Richmond Hill Stars took home a silver medal in 2004.

The OHL also announced their Player of the Year Awards. Maddox Dagenais (Quinte Red Devils) and Ethan Belchetz (Oakville Rangers) were named the OMHA - East Conference and OMHA - West Conference recipients, respectively.


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