Sadly this is the last "Mario Lucia wins a title" post this season but it's not like there haven't been enough between the BCHL regular season, playoffs, Doyle Cup and now the RBC Cup.
|F Mario Lucia (photo from Fraser Rodgers/BCHL.ca)|
Lucia, the 60th overall pick by Minnesota in the 2011 NHL Draft, helped lead the Penticton Vees to a 4-3 win over the Woodstock Slammers and claim the 2012 RBC Cup as the national champions of Canadian Junior "A" hockey. He had an assist on the Vees' first goal of the game while fellow Minnesotan Joey Benik scored the game-winning goal with 51.3 seconds remaining.
While Penticton has had their way with teams between a 42 game winning streak and four games in four round prior to the RBC Cup, they began the five-team round robin play with a pair of losses before battling back.
|Penticton celebrating the RBC Cup|
Mario finished the 2011-2012 season with 121 points in both the regular season and playoffs. He was third in the regular season with 94 points and had 27 points in 26 playoff games. The incoming Notre Dame freshman did slow down though during the RBC Cup with 3 points and 0 goals.
It's the first national title for Penticton in 26 years and one that may change the face of Canadian Junior "A" hockey. Besides the 6'3" Lucia and Benik, the Vees featured six other Minnesotans (including the 3 Reilly brothers - Mike, Connor and Ryan - heading to the University of Minnesota next season) who would have otherwise gone to the USHL. Although teams can only have eight players who aren't born in their home province (the Minnesota-born guys are not considered "import" players), winning a title shows that this is a viable path of development. The effect is already taking place as highly-regarded American junior players like Zach Stepan will help restock the team.
Lucia's national Junior "A" title adds to a growing list of Wild prospects winning this season. That includes a Swedish Elite League title (Johan Larsson), WCHA regular season crown (Erik Haula), the Presidents Cup as QMJHL champions (Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips), World Junior Championship goal medal (Larsson, Jonas Brodin and Johan Gustafsson) and Penticton's regular season, Fred Page Cup (BCHL) and Doyle Cup titles.
Regardless, it's good to see this.
Photo credit: Hockey Canada, Tony Lucia