Mac's heartbreaker for Raiders
Midget AAA team loses quarter-final playoff in double overtime
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 06:00 am
The 35th annual Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitation Tournament ended sooner than expected for the St. Albert Raiders in Calgary.
Kade Kehoe’s breakaway goal 3:33 into the second overtime period for the Saskatoon Contacts put the Raiders on the losing end of a 3-2 score in Monday’s quarterfinals at Father David Bauer Arena.
The Contacts forced overtime on Wyatt Sloboshan’s power-play marker with 2:52 remaining and Jason Miller in the box for interference.
“We had them right where we wanted them,” said Sandro Pisani, head coach of the No. 1 team in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League. “We had them down 2-1 with I think, three and change to go so it was kind of an unfortunate call at that point in the game and I think that kind of changed the momentum a little bit. They got a shot from the point and it deflected off one of our skates and into the net. It was disappointing.”
After a scoreless 10-minute overtime period, Matteo Gennaro of the Raiders was whistled for a double minor for head contact 1:15 into the second extra period.
“They had a power play for a minute or so and then we came down the ice shorthanded and made a really good opportunity. Miller took it hard to the net and as the puck kind of rolled over the goalie’s shoulder and on to the crossbar he got crosschecked in the back of the head (by Ross Hnidy) so they got a double minor and that’s when it went four on four,” Pisani explained. “We had some sustained pressure in the offensive zone and the puck came around the boards. Our defenceman went to keep it in and it bounced right over his stick and (Kehoe) had a full head of steam and it put him in on a breakaway.”
The goal gutted the Raiders.
“It was heartbreaking,” said captain Tyler Mrkonjic. “It was just an unlucky bounce that happens in hockey and it happened on us but we’ve got to keep our heads high because we battled hard all game. We worked hard, created lots of opportunities and had a great defensive game.”
The contest was scoreless until Dan Huculak potted his first goal of the tournament for the Raiders (3-2) early in the third period.
Jesse Shynkaruk replied 18 second later for the Contacts (3-2-1).
The Raiders regained the lead on Kyler Hehn’s penalty shot goal with 14 minutes to play. It was the fourth goal and eighth point in five games at the Mac’s for Hehn, the Raiders’ leading scorer this season with 17 goals and 32 points in 25 games.
The Raiders also killed off an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Hehn towards the end of the third.
Shots were 23-21 for the Raiders. In net was Mitch Martell, the recipient of the tournament’s top netminder award.
“You can pretty much call it a war. Lots of battling back and forth. Shots going both ways. Guys creating lots of opportunities. It was hitting, fast-paced hockey,” Mrkonjic said of the playoff thriller.
The Raiders opened the tournament with victories of 3-2 against the Calgary Buffaloes, 3-0 against the Saskatoon Blazers and 7-0 against the Battlefords Stars.
Martell stopped 22 shots against the Buffaloes (0-4) and shut out the Stars (2-2) with 26 saves. Pat Gora blanked the Blazers (2-2) with 29 saves.
“When we needed a save our goaltenders were there,” Pisani said.
The last game for the Raiders in pool three before the playoffs was the 4-3 loss to the Greater Vancouver Canadians.
“The one game we weren’t extremely excited about was the fourth game in the round robin but for the most part we were pretty happy with our effort overall,” Pisani said.
The Canadians (3-2) rallied from an early 2-0 deficit with one goal in the first frame and two more in the second before the Raiders pulled even to end the period.
The Canadians notched the game winner with 3:15 to play.
The Raiders outshot the Canadians 39-21. In net was Gora.
“It was a must-win game for them and they played like it and we didn’t play like that,” Pisani said.
Last year the Raiders finished 5-1 as semifinalists. Their only loss was 3-2 to Russia Severstal/Locomotiv. The tournament winners battled back from a two-goal deficit and broke the tie with 1:56 left in regulation time.
“When we played four straight last year we were 4-0 going into our day off, whereas this year we were 3-0 going into our day off and I thought we kind of let off the gas in the fourth game in the round robin. Part of it was a lot of the kids figured we had all ready qualified for the quarterfinals,” Pisani said. “A little more killer instinct in game four would’ve been nicer to see from our group but we responded with a real good effort in the quarter-final match against Saskatoon.”
Mrkonjic, 16, believes the Raiders will be a better team because of the Mac’s experience.
“As the tournament progresses you come closer as a team. It just makes your team better overall and it can continue on into your season,” said one of the five Raiders who played in their second Mac’s in a row. “There were a lot of similarities both years. Both teams wanted to win. Last year we got to the semifinals and it was a hard battle. This year was another hard battle, we just had an unlucky bounce that happened. It was a tough loss, but having a game like that, and a close game like that too, it’s going to bring us closer together. We’ll learn from it moving on so when it comes to the playoffs we don’t want to have that same feeling again.”
The Raiders (16-5-4) resume league play this weekend at Akinsdale Arena against the Lloydminster Bobcats (11-6-7) today at 1:15 p.m. and the Grande Prairie Storm (5-12-5) Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
The 2012 provincial finalists have nine games remaining before the playoffs kick off.
“The Mac’s is done with now and we got some valuable experiences in some close games and real good efforts that we’re going to take with us to the last part of the season and into the playoffs,” Pisani said. “We’ve given the players a few days off away from the rink just to refocus and re-energize and refresh the body and we’ll get ready to go Saturday afternoon. It’s going to be a tough game against Lloydminster.”