Lady Raiders ready to roll
Bantam AAA female hockey team starts season Sunday
By: By Nicole Starker
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 06:00 am
After a solid pre-season start, the St. Albert bantam AAA female Raiders are set to begin their regular season Sunday against the rival the Edmonton Lightning.
“I think we’re going to have pretty competitive hockey this year,” says head coach Kevin Emes. “We’ve had three pre-season games and we’re 3-0 so there’s certainly potential there.”
The Raiders play in the Alberta Major Bantam Female Hockey League, which was established four years ago.
“It’s following the AAA program in Alberta,” Emes says of the league. “It’s the top level rep hockey for the females. I think there was an opportunity for boys to develop at that level, and it only makes sense that we create opportunities for females to develop to their full potential as well.”
The Raiders are one of six teams in the north division. Last season St. Albert finished at the top of the division standings for the regular season, but didn’t earn a medal at provincials.
This is Emes’ first season behind the Raiders bench, but he has been involved in female hockey for 16 years, including serving as female director for the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association. Last year he coached boys’ midget AA in Morinville.
The Raiders’ coaching staff had a hard time selecting a final roster from the 24 girls that tried out for the team.
“It’s always difficult, particularly with goalies,” Emes says. “We had really good goalies this year. We had three come out and we trimmed it down to the two we have. We have very strong goaltenders this year.”
Julia Kormish, Allyson Short, Madison McCoy and goaltender Natalie Bender are returning players this year. Among the 13 newcomers this season, Emes says that some are new to the program, some are players that he’s coached before and some come from well-versed hockey backgrounds.
“We’ve got Sutton Foster out of Slave Lake playing for us,” says Emes. “Her brother T.J. is currently with the Oil Kings, so they’re a pretty storied hockey family and she’s a competitor like all of our girls are.”
Jaime and Jenai Kidd are also in the Raiders’ line-up this year. The twins’ father Justin Kidd has been heavily involved in hockey in St. Albert over the years as both a player and coach.
Six girls from last year’s Raiders’ roster moved up to the midget AAA Slash this season.
“We’re going to work pretty close with (Slash head coach Phil Webb) this year because the bantam AAAs are the feeder program for the Slash. Our goals are the same,” Emes says. “Develop our girls to the best of their potential and make sure they have opportunities to pursue their hockey career whether it’s education or the national team or whatever their goals are.”
Part of that player development is physical conditioning. Emes says that building a team based on work ethic requires being in good physical condition and his players have worked hard to achieve that.
“We have a personal trainer, we focus on nutrition, we talk about getting enough sleep and how to eat properly for high performance,” Emes says. “There are a lot of things that go into becoming a high performance athlete, and we want to give these girls an opportunity to perform at the highest level.”
As important as fitness and on-ice skills are in playing elite hockey, the Raiders’ coaching staff also believes in mental conditioning. Players will have a sport psychologist work with the girls this season.
“My primary goal is to prepare them to play at the highest level that they can but it’s not all about hockey – it’s about balancing life,” Emes says. “Education is critical, participating with their families is critical and performing as a high performance athlete is critical, and that’s the program we’ve put together.”
The philosophy of achieving life balance and giving 100 per cent focus to whatever the players do is designed to achieve results in life and on the ice.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re there to win,” Eames says. “At this level it’s about winning, but we need to be realistic and understand that these girls have lives outside of hockey and it’s just a matter of finding that balance and that’s going to lead them in the right direction as they move forward with their education and their sports or whatever they want to do.”
The team is looking to score a win against the Lightning in their season debut Sunday. Faceoff is 3:45 p.m. at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre.
“We’re going to feel it out. We’re just going to go out there and give 100 per cent and work on the things that we’ve been working on in practice like quick puck movement, aggressive forechecks, driving the net – all the things that make a team successful,” Emes says.
While there is still work to de done fine-tuning the special teams, Emes says that size and speed are among the team’s strengths.
“We have some girls that can move the puck fairly well and like I said our goaltending is very strong,” Emes says. “I think we’re a pretty good sized team, and with that size, we have pretty good speed so we’re going to use that to our advantage.”
As they head into the regular season, the Raiders’ coaching staff is working to help the 17 players gel as a team and work hard together all shift, every shift.
“We have a real strong team philosophy,” Emes says. “I’ve coached teams in the past where we might not have been as skilled as some players but our work ethic brought us through. It’s all about the effort that we put in. The girls are never going to get any grief from the coaches as long as they’re putting in 100 per cent effort.”