A team of Northern Ontario hockey players are heading south this week to show the rest of the province "what Northern Ontario is made of" at the OHL Showcase Cup.
The OHL Cup runs from March 12 to 17 in Mississauga and features 20 of the best teams from across Ontario and the United States. The showcase provides fans and scouts one last opportunity to see many of the top minor midget-aged players from across Ontario and parts of the United States prior to the 2013 OHL Priority Selection.
The NOHA All-Stars team is comprised of a select group of OHL draft-eligible players from the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, including the Nickel City Sons and Sudbury Wolves minor-midget teams.
The selected players attended the NOHA Player Development Weekend and were further evaluated over the first two months of the 2012-12 season with their club teams.
Cameron Lizotte, a second-year defenceman with the Nickel City Sons, said he's both "nervous and excited" to hit the ice.
"But I have a good group of guys here and I feel pretty confident going into it and I think we'll do great," he added.
"Growing up, some of these kids you play against and you develop a rivalry, but in the end, we're gelling as a team and we can make that transition to come together."
While he said his main goal is to move on to the playoffs, there's also a focus on raising the reputation for Northern Ontario hockey players.
"Hopefully we show the southern guys how northern boys do it," Lizotte said.
Craig Duncanson, who is part of the team of coaches guiding Team NOHA, said this is an opportunity for the 15- and 16-year-old boys to "show their talents and be the dominate team."
"They're representing a lot of other young men that they left behind in their clubs in Northern Ontario, and showing the calibre they can play," the coach said. "I'm sure they'll respond quite fine."
While some teams participating in the tournament are sporting their regular rosters, the Northern Ontario squad had the added challenge of drawing players from various teams.
Duncanson admitted it was a challenge to make those selections, but he has the luxury of having an equally talented team from top to bottom.
"We don't have to rely on a few players," he said. "They are all going to get their time to play and shine."
The Team NOHA roster includes:
Nickel City Sons - Kevin Labelle, Mackenzie Savard, Cameron Lizotte, Brody Brunet, Anthony Pelletier, Alexi Rivet, Brad Sutton and Scott Villeneuve.
Sudbury Wolves - Niibin Nashkawa, Owen Fransen and Eric Paquette.
Soo Thunder - Andrew Barbeau, Caleb Boman, Owen Headrick, Alex Morin, Matthew Caruso, Adam McPhail, Blake Speers and Jason Uhl.
Kapuskasing Flyers - Brenden Locke.