Marlboros Defend Top Spot

Jan 2, 2023 | Craig Peterson

Photo from OntarioHockeyLeague.com
Photo from OntarioHockeyLeague.com

No. 1-ranked Marlies fend off field of contenders at home in the Marlboros Holiday Classic

One of the more iconic youth hockey tournaments in Canada, the Marlboros Holiday Classic has a rich history of more than 30 years of champions. On Sunday, the No. 1-ranked ‘07 team in the world, Toronto Marlboros won the very event that they host annually during the holiday season.

A field of 48 teams consisted of seven of the top 10 teams in Canada, and three of the top 10 teams in the United States. Competitors were split into eight divisions of five teams and two divisions of four teams. The top team in each division advanced to the playoffs, with six more at-large bids being awarded.

The Marlies went 4-0-0 in pool play, with wins over the Kingston Jr. Gaels, Windsor Jr. Spitfires, Syracuse Nationals and Hamilton Bulldogs. That earned the host team the top seed in the playoffs. When the field was whittled down to 16 teams, eight of the 10 nationally ranked teams remained.

‘07 Marlies finally win Holiday Classic on fourth attempt

As the top seed, the Marlboros rolled past the Vaughan Kings 7-2 in the round of 16 teams. That set the stage for a quarterfinal matchup with No. 6-ranked York Simcoe Express. Despite being two of the top teams in the country, this meeting proved to be the first between them this season. The Marlies continued their offensive domination with a 6-1 victory.

The semifinals included the Marlies, No. 7-ranked Mississauga Rebels, No. 8-ranked Halton Hurricanes and the No. 1-ranked team in the U.S., Little Caesars.

Friday morning’s first semifinal matchup pitted the top team in Canada against the top team in the U.S., and the matchup did not disappoint.

“All the boys did their part,” Kieran Witkowski said to OntarioHockeyLeague.com. “We faced a lot of adversity through the week, but we pulled through and got the job done.”

Four goals against a team that hadn’t given up three all week certainly was enough for the Marlies to ‘get the job done.’ Witkowski and company handed Little Caesars just its third loss of the season, 4-3 to advance to the finals.

Balanced Scoring Propels Toronto to a Championship

The No. 8-ranked Halton Hurricanes awaited in the championship. They had defeated American No. 2-ranked Bishop Kearney 5-1 in the quarterfinals before beating No. 7-ranked Mississauga Rebels 8-2 in the semifinals.

Jeremy Martin scored the first goal of the game for Toronto with a quick shot over the goaltender’s left shoulder.

“It felt great to get the team going,” said Martin. “I just kind of picked up the puck in the neutral zone, and at that point in the game, I just went in and shot it hoping for the best, and it went in.”

Witkowski, Lev Katzin and William Moore rounded out the scoring for Toronto en route to a 4-1 championship win.

The Marlies have now won the Whitby Silver Stick and Holiday Classic within a few weeks of each other. As the top ‘07 team in youth hockey, the Marlboros continue to build their resume and cement themselves as the best in the birth year.

Oakville Rangers Shut Out ‘08 Teams 

The No. 5-ranked Oakville Rangers exerted their dominance on the field of 39 teams. In its eight-game run to a Marlies Holiday Classic championship, Oakville blanked not one, not two, not three but four opponents. The most important shutout coming 4-0 over the Halton Hurricanes in the championship game. As a team, they allowed just six goals against in the tournament, while tallying 38 goals. 

Ranked 10th in the world, Oakville showed why it’s been one of the best 2008-born teams in youth hockey. The team enters the New Year on a 28-game win streak and a Marlies Holiday Classic championship to the resume.

Don Mills Beats Back-to-Back Top-10 Teams to win the Title

Four of the top 10 teams in Canada tangled in the ‘09 Division at the Marlboros Holiday Classic. No. 2 Don Mills Flyers came in as the highest ranked of the bunch, and lived up to the billing in the two biggest games of the tournament.

Chalk would win out in the tournament, as all four ranked teams survived to see the semifinals. There, Don Mills drew a matchup with No. 4-ranked Toronto Titans. A strong defensive effort led to the Flyers’ fourth shutout of the tournament, 2-0 over the Titans.

In the championship, No. 8 Huron-Perth Lakers looked to crack DMF’s stingy defense. The Lakers found the back of the net three times, which was more than the entire field of teams had done in the tournament against Don Mills. However, the Flyers’ offensive ability created problems that Huron-Perth could not match. It would be a 6-3 final in favor of the Flyers in the ‘09 championship.

Top-ranked Jr. Canadiens Cruise to a Marlies Championship

Only two 2010 teams in the field of 11 came into the Marlboros Holiday Classic ranked by World Hockey Hub. Eventual tournament champion, No. 1-ranked Toronto Jr. Canadiens, and No. 9-ranked in the U.S., Buffalo Jr. Sabres.

The Jr. Canadiens edged past Buffalo 1-0 in the first game of the tournament. Narrowly escaping victory in the only ranked matchup of the tournament gave way to Toronto cruising past its next five opponents en route to the Marlies Holiday Classic championship.

Toronto out-scored its opponents 20-6, with shut-out wins over Buffalo, the Markham Majors and Toronto Marlboros.

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