Sabres show sharp side
Bantam AAA team goes 2-3 at John Reid Memorial Tournament
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Sabres finished the John Reid Memorial Tournament on a winning note.
The host team for the 35th annual St. Albert bantam AAA event tallied twice in the third period to defeat the Okanagan Hockey Academy 5-3 Sunday morning at Mark Messier Arena.
After the Sabres let a 3-0 lead slip away, defenceman Zach Sherburne’s second goal of the game with 11:22 remaining broke the tie and forward Ryan Cox’s team-leading fourth goal in the Reid tournament was the insurance marker.
“It really showed our character how we can pull through adversity. They came back and then we got the lead again,” said Sherburne, 14, a Grade 9 Vincent J. Maloney student.
In the process the Sabres improved to 2-3 after losing their last four games last year to wind up 1-4.
“We had pretty good success,” Sherburne said. “We were in all the games, so it’s not like we were getting blown out. We were staying close to the really good teams and playing them hard to try and win.”
All three losses were by one goal and both wins were against teams that were a combined 0-9-1.
“There were a couple of teams that we were expected to get blown out by but we held them to one goal, which is pretty good. We played them as hard as we could,” Sherburne said. “We definitely had a great time because it’s one of the most prestigious tournaments around in North America. All the best teams come here. It’s really an honour to be here and to get in it every year for the St. Albert kids.”
In the FYI Doctors division the Sabres lost 3-2 to the Pursuit of Excellence Academy of Kelowna, the tournament’s third-place winner, then rallied in the third period to beat the Winnipeg Monarchs 6-4 before dropping a 5-4 decision to the Calgary Bisons.
In the playoff round involving the third-place finishers from all four divisions in the 16-team draw, MLAC Scott Pump notched the game winner with 4:19 to play to edge the Sabres 4-3 Saturday. Sherburne and Jaedon Leslie made it 2-0 and Dylan Huot knotted it at three apiece on the power play with 14:47 left in the game. Matt Murray stopped 21 MLAC shots.
In the last game against Okanagan, Zach Webb scored in the opening period and Cox made it 2-0 in second stanza. Leslie added three assists and netminder Josh Dechaine faced 46 shots.
“It was really good to get the win because we play KC next (on Friday in league play at 7:45 p.m. at Callingwood Arena). It’s a good start for that game and we need the two points,” said centre Jake Warawa.
The Sabres (7-14-7) are three points behind the fourth-place Canadian Athletic Club (11-14-2) for the final playoff spot in the nitro north division in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
The Canadians have one game in hand on the Sabres, who have five games left in the season. The last three are at Akinsdale Arena, including a Feb. 9 tilt with the Canadians.
The fourth-place team will take on the powerhouse SSAC Southgate Lions (24-0-2) in the best-of-three opening round. The 2012 provincial champions lost the Reid tournament final 3-2 to the North Shore Winter Club Hawks of Vancouver.
Warawa, 14, believes the Sabres are a better team after playing in the Reid tournament.
“We played really good and even though we didn’t head into the finals it’s going to help us in the regular season and I think we have a shot at making the playoffs and beating Southside,” said the Grade 8 VJM student.
The Sabres are 0-4 against the Lions after losses of 7-1 in October, 5-4 in November, 3-0 in December and 3-2 in January.
“We played really good against them. Some of their players say they don’t want to play us right now because we’re on a little bit of a hot streak,” Warawa said.
The Sabres were 4-2-3 going into the Reid tournament following a coaching shuffle.
“The start of the season wasn’t too good but now we’re just getting better as a team, so to finish off with a win is great to build up the confidence,” Sherburne said. “The great aspect of the tournament is the team bonding and just getting to know our new coaches since we had a coaching change. We’re getting to know each other better and bonding more.”
Heart and hustle
The Sabres were led at the Reid tournament by captain Josh Mahura’s seven assists and Cox’s six points.
But the team’s brightest star was Warawa as the recipient of the John Reid Memorial Award for heart and hustle.
“I’m just really excited I got it but I couldn’t do it by myself. My teammates helped me out,” Warawa said.
The award is presented to the Sabre who symbolizes the person and hockey player Reid was. The tournament was renamed in Reid’s memory in 2004.
Previous winners were Joshua Perrott, Tyler Mrkonjic, Jake Mykitiuk, Jed Groenenboom, Josh Winquist, Ryan Harrison, Steve Wall, Blaine Bokenfohr and Nate Fleming.
John’s dad, Ernie, made the presentation at Saturday’s banquet.
“I was really excited. I jumped off my chair and got up to the stage as fast as I could,” Warawa said. “He said I played exactly like him and it’s an honour to be known as one of those players.”
The five-foot-two Warawa is short in stature but plays with a huge heart.
“I’m a smaller guy so I have to work a bit harder to catch up to everyone,” he said. “A lot of kids are over five-foot-seven so I have to battle hard to get the puck off them.”
Warawa recorded three goals and one assist in five games after posting four goals and eight points in 28 games in league play.
His two-goal effort in the third period against Winnipeg, including the winner with 4:04 to play, highlighted a four-goal outburst by the Sabres in Thursday’s comeback victory.
“I’m really good defensively and I have some good offensive skills,” Warawa said. “I guess my best game is just playing hard.”