Tryouts continue for Sabres' hopefuls
Pre-season starts Friday for bantam AAA team
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 05, 2012 06:00 am
The St. Albert Sabres skate in the pre-season with a new head coach and 30 players trying to make the bantam AAA team.
Bench boss Donovan Sugiyama has six exhibition games to finalize the roster before Sept. 26 league opener.
“There is a lot of quality kids and we’ve got to whittle down fairly quickly,” Sugiyama said. “We have a fairly lengthy exhibition schedule starting Friday night that will help us make the last few cuts we need to make.”
This weekend the Sabres and Fort Saskatchewan Rangers hook up twice: Friday at Akinsdale Arena at 6 p.m. and Sunday in the Fort at 3:30 p.m.
His goal for the pre-season is three-fold.
“First is to figure out who can play and who can’t play at that level out of the kids I’ve got left,” he said. “Two is start putting together some combinations of guys who can play together as we build towards the start of regular season and three is to start putting a framework in place of the kind of hockey I want to play this year and sort of introduce the kids to a little bit of a system so we have some structure going forward.”
Sugiyama is looking to ice a team that is hard-working and disciplined.
“Basically my teams in the past have been good skating, good puck moving teams that are responsible at both ends of the ice and I think that’s what you’re going to see this year,” he said. “We’re going to have some size and some skill on the back end and definitely some shiftiness and skill up front.”
Sugiyama coached the St. Albert Blues to the 2011 midget AA provincial final and a fifth and deciding game in the Northern Alberta Midget AA Hockey League final.
Sugiyama’s playing background includes stints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
This is his first season coaching in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
“It’s difficult for me right now to gauge where we’re at. I will have a better idea once we’re finished the exhibition schedule but a playoff spot should be a definite goal for the guys for sure,” said the assistant coach last season with the St. Albert Steel in the AJHL.
Netminder Matt Murray and defenceman Josh Mahura are the only Sabres back from last season’s fourth-place 18-8-7 finish in the very tough nitro north division.
In the opening best-of-three playoff round the Sabres lost two straight to the SSAC Southgate Lions, the eventual provincial champions.
On tap for the Sabres is the 35th anniversary of the prestigious John Reid Memorial Tournament, Jan. 17 to 20 at Servus Credit Union Place.
“The John Reid tournament is definitely one of the peaks in the season for us and a focus point for sure,” Sugiyama said. “At the same time we need to make sure we’re playing our best hockey but continuing along our path towards the playoffs.”