Sabres shoot for success
Host team for John Reid Memorial Tournament gunning for wins
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Sabres are shooting for big goals as the host team at the John Reid Memorial Tournament.
“Every team wants to come in and win it all and that is definitely our team’s goal. Another goal is to play a full 60 minutes and play the best that we can,” said netminder Matt Murray, who stymied the Winnipeg Monarchs with 32 saves in Thursday’s 6-4 win at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
The Sabres were 1-1 going into their last pool game Friday afternoon against the 2-0 Calgary Bisons. The score was unavailable at press time.
A top two finish in the FYI Doctors division would put the Sabres in the playoff hunt for the tournament title.
Visit www.johnreidmemorial.com for playoff schedules and results.
“We’ve got a good squad and I’m hoping for the best,” said netminder Josh Dechaine, who faced 34 shots in the 3-2 loss to the Pursuit of Excellence Academy (POE) of Kelowna in the Sabres’ tournament opener Thursday.
Last year the Sabres won their first game before losing four in a row after posting two wins and three losses in 2011.
Murray, 14 and captain Josh Mahura are the only Sabres back from the 2012 Reid tournament.
“Definitely the experience from last year helps because you know what the talent level is like coming in. It’s the top-notch teams from all of western Canada coming in to play in this one tournament so we’ve got to bring our A game. You can’t let up for a second,” Murray said.
The 16-team competition, hosted by the Sabres and the St. Albert Raiders Hockey Club, is the most highly-scouted bantam tournament in western Canada.
“It’s probably the biggest honour there is this year for us, just being able to host the tournament so grand as this,” Murray said. “It’s a great responsibility and a great gift for St. Albert.”
Dechaine, 14, dressed as a backup for a spell in last year’s event as a call up from the bantam AA St. Albert Bears because of injuries.
“I loved the atmosphere so I knew it was going to be good this year,” Dechaine said. “For me it’s a big honour to be here. I’ve always wanted to play in this tournament, just seeing the people that come through it and where they go.”
Thursday felt like Christmas morning for the Sabres prior to the POE game.
“Everybody was just so excited. You could just tell when you walked into the dressing room that everyone was focused and dialed in. Everybody was ready to play because it’s such a prestigious tournament and it’s such an honour to have it here,” Murray said.
Zach Webb and Jake Warawa scored against POE, 1-1 after the first day. The third period was scoreless despite a 10-6 edge in shots and handful of excellent scoring chances by the Sabres.
“It’s definitely good for the boys to get going like that. We had a great start and a good ending,” Dechaine said. “(The loss) is definitely not something to be upset with. It still gets the boys excited and rowdy for the next one.”
In the feature game after the opening ceremonies, the Sabres rallied from a 4-2 deficit with four unanswered goals in the last 11:42 minutes of play to hand the Monarchs their second loss of the day.
Warawa’s power-play goal was the spark that ignited the Sabres. Ryan Cox tied it with 5:41 remaining and 97 seconds later Warawa sniped the winner. Dylan Huot rounded out the scoring as the Sabres finished the game with 32 shots.
Connor Deighton made it 1-1 in the first and Jack Langenhahn knotted it at two apiece early in the second.
Huot, Jake Letourneau and Jacob Waldbillig chipped in with two assists apiece.
Murray said the team’s first win “will probably help a lot to get the momentum going. We just have to keep going and keep improving and see what happens.”
Win or lose, Murray said the tournament will not define the Sabres season.
“It’s just another series of games to play. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and play our game,” said the Grade 9 Lorne Akins student.
The Sabres stormed into the Reid tournament with a 4-3-2 record in their last nine games in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
“We had a bad start (to the season) but we took off after that and we’ve been playing some great hockey. The boys have been flying and I like the way we’re playing right now. It’s going to be good in the playoffs as well,” said Dechaine, a Grade 9 Ecole Secondaire Saint Marguerite d'Youville student.
The last game for the Sabres (7-14-7) in league play was Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Canadian Athletic Club (10-14-2) in Edmonton. After the Canadians struck first in the opening period, Zach Nuttall scored in the second and Webb, Mahura and Nuttall sealed the deal in the third. Shots were 38-24 for the Sabres and Murray (4-8-4, 3.28 GAA) was in net.
The victory left the Sabres one point back of the Canadians in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the nitro north division. The Canadians have two games in hand on the Sabres, who have five games remaining.
“That was probably one of the biggest games this season so far,” Murray said. “It would’ve been the difference between being five points back or one point back so that helps us a ton. We play them one more time (Feb. 9 in St. Albert) before the playoffs start so that will be a big game too.”