As the Okotoks Junior A Oilers refocus their sights on making a run at the RBC Cup it is a rookie on the roster who brings some championship experience to the club.
Oiler rookie Ben Gamache was the captain of the Notre Dame Hounds who won the Telus Cup as the best Midget AAA team in Canada last April in Selkirk, MB.
“Going into the Telus Cup we had nothing on our mind except to win,” Gamache said. “We ended up tying the first game to the Buffs (the Calgary Buffaloes). We knew we had a good chance to meet them in the final and so we had a pretty good idea what it would take to beat them.”
The Hounds shut out the Buffaloes 4-0 in the final and Gamache scored the final goal. “It was a real bonus to score that goal on TV with my family watching from back home,” said Gamache, who hails from Long Lac, ON.
Gamache had seven goals and three assists in the Telus Cup tournament and was selected the tournament’s top forward.
Attending the famed Notre Dame private school in Wilcox, SK was a rewarding experience for the Oiler freshman. “Notre Dame is really different than other Midget teams,” Gamache said. “You are always with the team — you eat with the team, you sleep with the team. You do everything with the team. “It really builds team bonding.”
He said hockey is No. 1 in Wilcox which is just south of Regina.
“It’s a small town —the school is bigger than the town,” Gamache said. “But people who have lived there for years know who you are because of the hockey teams. It’s a really nice community.”
Going to Notre Dame opened other doors for Gamache besides the swinging gate going onto the ice. “I now know people from Korea, Switzerland and from all over the world and these are non-hockey kids,” Gamache said.
However, when he made the jump to Junior A he chose Okotoks rather than remaining in Notre Dame, which has produced such players as Wendel Clark and Vincent Lecavalier.
“I talked to some guys who have played here — Corban Knight and Chris Duszynski,” Gamache said. “Corban told me it was a great organization. I did my research and I knew it was a great community.”
Gamache first became aware that he was on the Oilers’ radar when he talked to the team’s head of scouting Jay Magnussen at the Mac’s Midget Tournament last December. The Oilers were able to close the deal after former coach Dan MacDonald and Magnussen saw Gamache play at the Western Regionals in Moose Jaw.
“I got a phone call asking me to give Okotoks a shot and I didn’t hesitate,” Gamache said. “Notre Dame tried hard to get me to stay my last month of school, but I thought Okotoks was a better choice for me at this time.”
New Oiler coach and GM Garry VanHereweghe said he is delighted to be reaping the benefits of MacDonald’s and Magnussen’s hard work in recruiting Gamache.
“Any time you get a player off a national champion it will pay dividends,” VanHereweghe said. “Kids who come out of Notre Dame are very disciplined and they are also used to being away from home.”
The Oilers have had success in the past with recruits from Notre Dame as former Oiler Andrew Owsiak, who is now playing at Dartmouth, also played Midget at Notre Dame.
VanHerewghe said Gamache is tenacious and battles in the corner and is not afraid to do the dirty work in front of the net.
“He has to work on his speed — his first two strides. He has to work on his acceleration,” VanHereweghe said. “But he has a good work ethic and it will come.
“I’m not afraid to use him in any situation.” Gamache has two goals and one assist with the Oilers this year.
By Bruce Campbell