Vaughan Kings Earn Caesars’ Crown

Oct 20, 2022 | World Hockey Hub

Photo from Instagram | @vkaaahockey
Photo from Instagram | @vkaaahockey

‘08 Canadian club victorious at Little Caesars Invitational

The Vaughan Kings have been among Canada’s best youth hockey teams since the 2022-23 season began. Last weekend, they got a chance to prove it on an international stage. Vaughan went 5-0-0 against a mixture of U.S. and Canadian teams to win the Little Caesars Invitational. 

Sitting at 14-1-1 thus far, the Kings opened play with wins against the Boston Jr. Eagles and Oakville Rangers. Both opponents are currently omitted from the world rankings, however, still served as challenging matchups with 2-1 and 3-1 scores to open the weekend.

Chicago Mission Present Biggest Challenge of the Showcase

Perhaps Vaughan’s most impressive victory came in their third game of the weekend against No. 2 Chicago Mission — and No. 5 in the world. This was a matchup we had highlighted in our games of the week preview, and the contest did not disappoint.

Cross-border matchups between U.S. and Canadian youth hockey teams are not rare. However, when two Top-5 teams face off, ears perk up. With the Kings holding down the No. 1 spot in Canada, and the Mission moving up a spot in the latest rankings, fans knew they were in for a treat. 

Chicago would open the scoring 1-0 at 1:10 of the first period on a great individual effort from Victor Plante. After collecting the puck in the neutral zone, Plante skated in all alone on the Kings’ defense. After crossing the blue line he whipped a backhand shot from the edge of the right face-off circle, and into the net. 

With just under four minutes left to play in the second period, Mission defenseman Abraham Barnett attempted to clear the puck. That hit off the back of teammate Aurelio Garcia and into the middle of the ice. Kings forward Caleb Malhotra was able to corral the loose puck in the slot. He quickly turned and ripped a shot past the blocker of Donovan Dunlay to knot the score at 1-1. 

With a little over six minutes left in the third period, Alessandro Di Iorio would put the Kings up 2-1 with a stellar individual effort of his own. Flanked by three Mission players as he skated alone into the zone, Di Iorio rifled a shot from the right circle off the post and in for the eventual game-winning goal.

Chicago pulled Dunlay in the final minute of regulation for the extra attacker, but thanks to tight defense and some late saves by Justin Young, the Kings would hold on for the 2-1 win.

Young would end the game making 15 saves on 16 shots, while Dunlay stopped 25 of 27 shots.

Vaughan Kings Reign Continues in ’22-23

Vaughan rounded out their final two games of the Invitational by besting No. 9 Pittsburgh Vengeance 1-0 and No. 6 Little Caesars 3-2. That gave the Kings five wins on the weekend; three against ranked opponents.

The Kings have been one of the top ‘08 teams in Canada for more than a year. In the last 12 months, they’ve won the U14 Silver Sticks, U14 GTHL regular season and playoff championship, the U14 OHL Cup last spring and now adds a Little Caesars Invitational belt to the trophy case. The U15 season is an important one for Canadian teams like Vaughan. They will again compete in one of the top leagues in all of youth hockey — the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL). On top of that, top ’08s in the province will play for the All-Ontario championships at the end of the season.

They finished last season as the No. 1-ranked team in Canada, debuted in the top spot to begin ’22-23 and have maintained that billing through the first three rankings updates of the season. As the No. 1 team in Canada, Vaughan currently checks in at third in the world behind Russian-born CSKA Moscow and Vityaz Podolsk.

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