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By Chris Bayee, 01/24/17, 12:00PM PST


The Anaheim Jr. Ducks Squirt A team coached by Eugene Kabanets is making a name for itself across North America this season.

For the second year in a row the 2006 team advanced to the championships game of its age group at The Cup North American Championship at Buffalo, N.Y. on Jan 13-15.

The tournament, for 2002-07 birth years, featured more than 40 of the top 2006 teams in North America, evenly split between the United States and Canada.

“We were confident this year; we wanted to make the top four,” Kabanets said. “The sad part is we had four goals disallowed in the final (against Team Illinois). We were playing better until the third period.

“Still, it was a great experience and we played some great teams in the tournament.”

The Jr. Ducks won their four round-robin games and quarterfinal and semifinal matchups by a combined 34-11.

They defeated the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs, 4-1, in the quarters and knocked off the Vaughan Kings, 3-2, in the semifinals.

The Buffalo run came on the heels of a 11-3-1 start in CAHA, where the 2006s are playing up in the Pee Wee AA division and an undefeated weekend (5-0) at a Tier 1 Elite Hockey League showcase in Detroit in mid-December.

“This team has been together for three years, and we have a good core that we’ve built around,” Kabanets said. “They played up a lot so they know how to play against older players. It was hard at the beginning of the season but the good competition has helped raise the bar.

“The last two months they’ve raised their speed and the compete level. The AA competition absolutely helped and it shows. It’s helped them compete nationally and internationally.”

The 2006s also were dominant at the Tier 1 showcase, outscoring foes like Detroit Victory Honda, the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, Soo Greyhounds, Cleveland Barons and Ohio Blue Jackets 44-9 in the five games.

“It’s been a great season because we’ve grown a lot,” Kabanets said. “The players have learned not to quit, not to give up against bigger, stronger and faster players.”

The roster includes: goaltenders Rudy Arishin, Harry Avrith and skaters Oliver Clarke, Trevor Connelly, Trevor Fessenden, Colin Frank, Taygen Gilmer, Liam McGuern, Kai Mencel, Andrew O'Sullivan, Lucas Schwarz, Chase Stefanek, Brendan Vincent and Aidan Yi. Kabanets is assisted by Scott Connelly, Albert Yi and Tom O'Sullivan.

- Chris Bayee