Raiders hot at home
Winning record at Akinsdale Arena for midget AAA team
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012 06:00 am
The St. Albert Raiders are tough to beat at home so far this season in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
The north division co-leaders are 3-1-1 in the cozy confines of Akinsdale Arena after defeating the Southeast Tigers of Medicine Hat 8-1 and the Calgary Northstars 5-3 last weekend.
The only loss was 3-2 to the Telus Cup national champion Red Deer Chiefs on Oct. 13. The Chiefs are the top team in the south at 7-0-1.
“When we play in Akinsdale we have that extra step,” said right-winger Paul Lovsin. “Our philosophy is when you come into our barn we’re not going to let anyone push us around.”
On Saturday the Raiders capitalized five times on the power play against the Tigers (1-6-1), the last-place team in the south. Sunday the Raiders withstood a brief flurry by the Northstars (2-4-2) to post their third win in a row.
“We played really well. We got the four points like we wanted,” Lovsin said. “Medicine Hat is a bit of a chippier team so we had to battle through some adversity with a bunch of late cheap shots but we kept playing our game and ended up beating them.
“Today we played really well in the second and then we kind of collapsed. We had to call a timeout and get our feet going again and we ended up winning the game.”
Lovsin scored twice with the man advantage in period two and Gennaro struck three times on the power play after failing to light the lamp in six games.
“I don’t know if I had a monkey on my back but it sure felt good to get that first one (to open the scoring). I just kept on playing and got the second one and eventually I got the third one,” said Gennaro, who also assisted on Lovsin’s second goal of the night.
Dan Huculak, Kyler Hehr and Michael Cardinal also filled the Tigers’ net. Brett Smythe added three assists and Tyler Dea had two helpers.
Period scores were 2-0 and 6-0 as the Raiders outshot the Tigers 33-15. In net was Mitch Martell (3-0-1, 1.25 GAA).
“It was a good game all around,” Gennaro said. “The Tigers had like 14 penalties so we had lots of opportunities to score and we ended up doing that.”
Gennaro, 15, also potted the game winner against the Northstars on the power play for his seventh point in eight games.
“We’ve been working a lot on our power play in practice and it’s something our coaches have highlighted as something we need to succeed on,” said the Grade 10 Bellerose Composite High School student.
Dea, Hehr, Sebastian Auray and James Vermeulen tallied and Smythe chipped in with a pair of assists for eight in eight games.
Pat Gora (2-1-1, 2.75 GAA) stopped 20 out of 22 shots in the third for a game-high 34 saves. The Raiders registered 27 shots, but only eight in the third.
Hehr’s team-high sixth goal of the season sealed the deal halfway through the third after the Northstars scored twice in a six-minute span.
“We kind of had a little speed bump and they got a couple of quick ones but we bounced back and got the win,” Gennaro said. “When they got those two quick goals our coaches called a timeout and just told us we were playing on our heels a little bit and we’ve got to stick to the systems and play our game. That kind of calmed us down and we came out and battled back.”
The 2012 provincial finalists are 5-1-2 overall as the second-best defensive team in the league with 16 goals against and two Martell shutouts.
“So far we’ve just bought in as a team. Everybody has their roles so if everybody does their roles our team is going to be successful,” Lovsin said. “Usually this team is always really strong and I really think we can make a far run in the playoffs.”
Gennaro credits the coaching staff for turning the Raiders into a team to fear.
“We’re a very well coached hockey team. They’ve given us the best opportunity to be successful,” Gennaro said. “The key to our success is just playing our systems. Our coaches have laid it out for us what to do and we’ve just got to go out and do what they say and play our best game.”
Gennaro had an extra spring in his skates last weekend after making Team Alberta for the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, Nov. 1 to 4 in Calgary. Netminder Pat Dea of the midget 15 St. Albert Flyers was also selected to play for the two-time defending tournament champions.
“It’s a huge honour to represent your province in a tournament as highly ranked as that. I’m really excited,” Gennaro said.
Tryouts were held in the summer.
“It was one week of six full days of skating and it was twice a day, usually a practice and a game. There was definitely a lot of good players there. It was a grind but you just had to go out and play your best,” said Gennaro.
The former bantam AAA Sabre is among 16 players in their first season with the Raiders, including five graduates from the 2011/12 midget 15 Flyers. Lovsin and Smythe ranked first and second, respectively, in the north conference scoring race for the Flyers, the north playoff winners and provincial bronze medallists. Lovsin racked up 40 goals and 76 points in 37 games and his linemate, Smythe, recorded 30 goals and 69 points in 35 games.
Lovsin, 16, is small but tough with fast feet and quick hands. In six games he has three goals and one assist for the Raiders.
“I play bigger than my size. I also like to beat guys one-on-one with my speed and I have a good shot that I use to score goals,” said Grade 11 St. Albert Catholic High School student.
The next game for the Raiders is Saturday against the Rangers (1-6-1) in Fort Saskatchewan at 8 p.m. Sunday they host the Calgary Flames (5-1-2) at 3:45 p.m.