HUMBOLDT, Sask. -- The stellar netminding of John Kleinhans has helped the Soo Thunderbirds advance to the semifinals of the Royal Bank Cup in Humboldt, Sask., while earning himself major tournament laurels in the process.
Kleinhans, the top goalkeeper and first team Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League all-star was recognized at the RBC awards banquet Friday by being named the recipient of both the Roland Mercier Trophy as the most valuable player of the event while also garnering the top goaltender award.
Meanwhile Thunderbirds captain Micky Sartoretto was also honoured being named the winner of the Tubby Schmalz Trophy, which goes to the RBC most sportsmanlike player.
Another Soo player in Kris Barclay was awarded his team's recipient of the RBC Legacy Scholarship.
Doled out since 2004 these $500 bursaries are handed out to a graduating 20-year-old player on each participating club at the RBC.
THE SEMIFINAL: The Thunderbirds hit the ice at 8 p.m. ET tonight in the second of two semifinals at the RBC as they take on the Penticton Vees.
Both clubs finished 2-2 in round robin play with the Thunderbirds edging the Vees 2-1 in the RBC opener played last Saturday.
Kleinhans was the difference yet again making 44 saves in the win with James scoring the game-winner on the power play in the third period.
The host Humboldt Broncos (4-0) meet the Woodstock Slammers (1-3) in the other semifinal. That contest goes at 4 p.m. ET.
LAST GAME: The Soo punched their ticket to the semifinal after dropping Woodstock 7-4 in their last game. In that outing the Thunderbirds exploded for five goals in the game's first 12 minutes en route to the victory.
The club only managed 19 total shots on net yet managed to score seven times. Once again they were outshot by a wide margin (35-19) and rode the stellar netminding of Kleinhans to secure the win.
Matt Amadio and Kevin Michelcavage both tallied twice in the triumph while James Delayer, Brett Campbell and Nick Romano had singles.
RBC NOTEBOOK: In earning MVP laurels at the RBC, Kleinhans faced at tournament-high 193 shots on goal. His 181 saves were also the most of any goalie at the event.
Micky Sartoretto was second round robin scoring with five points. Matt Amadio was knotted for fourth with four points.
James Delayer and Dylan Connolly shared the lead in scoring among RBC defencemen with three points.
The team scoring first in games is 7-3 so far at the RBC.
This is the NOJHL's first appearance at the Royal Bank Cup since 2002 when the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats advanced to the nationals.
The closest Northern Ontario has come to winning the RBC was in both 2000 and 1991. In the 2000 finals Rayside-Balfour lost 2-1 to host Fort McMurray. They entered the RBC as NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt champions having gone 40-0 in the regular season, 12-1 in the playoffs and 4-1 at the DHC.
Meanwhile in 1991 the Sudbury Cubs fell to the Vernon Lakers in the final of the then Centennial Cup.
In the past 25 years only four Dudley-Hewitt winners have gone on to win the national championship. They were the Aurora Tigers in both 2004 and 2007 as well as the Thunder Bay Flyers in 1989 and 1992.
Jordan Carroll of the Sudbury Cubs was of the finalists for the RBC-CJHL player of the year award.
He led all skaters in the CJHL in goals with 70 and was second in points with 136 and was only held off the score sheet once in 50 regular season games in the NOJHL.
The RBC-CJHL player of the year award went to Christian Finch of the Stouffville Spirit of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The last four and eight of the previous 10 Royal Bank Cups have been held in Western Canada. The 2013 RBC will be held in Summerside, P.E.I.