Raiders taste bitter loss
Midget AAA team suffers rare loss as Maple Leafs score game winner with six seconds to play
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Raiders got caught looking ahead to the playoffs and paid the price in Saturday’s loss to the lowly Maple leafs.
“We’re in a little bit of trouble after losing that one,” said an anxious-sounding Mitch Martell, prior to Monday’s practice. “I think we’re going to get skated today like crazy.”
The 3-2 loss dropped the north division-leading Raiders (17-6-5) one point behind the Red Deer Chiefs (17-4-6) in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League pennant race. Red Deer, the three-time reigning provincial champions and 2012 Telus Cup national gold medallists, has a game in hand on the Raiders.
Last year’s provincial finalists have six games remaining before the playoffs start.
“You can tell the guys are excited. We’ve been preparing all year for the playoffs. It’s a big thing so it’s hard not to look ahead towards it. Obviously we must have been thinking about it that game,” Martell said. “We’ve got to stay grounded for the last six games here. We want first place for home ice and that’s the goal. We have to maintain first place because Southside (15-6-6 for second place in the north) is coming on hard too.”
It starts tonight for the Raiders against the Leduc Oil Kings (12-10-5) at 7:45 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
“We have to come ready to play Leduc. They’re a good team. They’ve always been good. They’re going to show up to play so we have to show up physically for sure because they’re a physical team,” Martell said.
The Raiders struggled putting the puck past netminder Zach DeGraves despite outshooting the Maple Leafs 38-29.
“It was a tough loss. We would like to have that one back,” Martell said.
Period scores were 1-1 and 2-2. Harrison Klein opened the scoring in the first and Mike Cardinal made it 2-1 early in the second.
With six seconds left in the game, Cole Chorney beat Martell for only the eighth win by the eighth-place Maple Leafs.
“We had the puck in their zone for about two minutes and then it changed and they came back on a three on two. Their guy passed it from the wing to the middle and they got a shot away and I was screened and it went in,” said Martell.
The former midget AA Whitecourt Mustang wasn’t thrilled about surrendering the game winner.
“It’s the worst thing ever. It’s bad,” said the Grade 12 St. Albert Catholic High School student.
The loss was only the third in 14 games, dating back to the 4-1 setback Nov. 17 in Grande Prairie.
“We needed a kick in the ass,” Martell said. “We had that loss in Grande Prairie and then we peaked after that and then we had that Southside loss (2-1 Dec. 22). Hopefully we peak after this loss going into the playoffs.”
The Raiders are now 1-1-1 in January after going 3-2 at the 35th annual Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitation Tournament in Calgary
Martell, 17, was the recipient of the Mac’s top netminder award. He stopped 22 shots in the 3-2 tournament opener against the Calgary Buffaloes, shut out the Battlefords Stars with 26 saves in the 7-0 win and in the quarter-finals made 18 saves in the 3-2 double overtime loss to the Saskatoon Contacts.
“It’s a big honour to receive that award. I’m pretty happy about it obviously, but a little bit surprised too. I thought the top goaltender would go to somebody who made the finals, and since we just made the quarter-finals I thought I was out of the running, but we played pretty well defensively in my three games so that’s all it took I guess,” said the north division player of the month for October.
The one goal against at the Mac’s that bugged Martell the most was Kade Kehoe’s breakaway marker 3:33 into the second OT period for Saskatoon. During four-on-four action, and the Raiders in the Saskatoon end, the puck came around the boards and bounced right over a defenceman’s stick for Kehoe to wheel away.
“He just walked in on my glove hand, cut to the middle and took a shot low blocker and it went post in. It was a good shot; like high pad, low blocker kind of thing. I must have read him wrong because I didn’t stop it, but they did get a lucky bounce on that goal and I guess that’s how it goes,” said Martell, who is 11-4-1 with a sparkling 1.81 GAA, three shutouts and .920 save percentage in league play.