Raiders host Team Canada
Monday's game against national women's hockey team counts in midget AAA standings
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 26, 2013 06:00 am
Two points are at stake Monday for the St. Albert Raiders against the Canadian national women’s hockey team at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
Team Canada is playing a series of games against Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League teams leading up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the results will count in the league standings.
“The boys are definitely getting excited and pumped up for that game,” said centre Harrison Klein. “Even though there are two points on the line we’re definitely going to try and have fun with it and have a good time.”
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and youths 12 and under. They are available at both Source for Sports stores in St. Albert and from the Raiders parents.
Tickets can also be purchased at the door if the game is not sold out. As of Thursday, approximately 1,800 tickets were already sold.
Puck drop is 7:45 p.m.
“It should be pretty cool. There will be lots of people, lots of noise and lots of family and friends watching. It should get the adrenaline going,” said left-winger Ethan Lazaro.
During the 2009/10 season, Team Canada played 30 exhibition games against AMHL teams in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
On Jan. 10, 2010 the Raiders lost 4-2 to Team Canada in front of 2,300 spectators, in what organizers said was the largest crowd to ever watch a hockey game at Servus Credit Union Place.
Team Canada’s centralization roster for the Sochi Olympics includes three netminders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards, as well as 13 gold medallists from the 2010 Olympics.
Meaghan Mikkelson, one of the inaugural 24 inductees into the City of St. Albert’s Skating Wall of Fame in 2011, is a Team Canada defenceman and 2010 Olympic gold medallist.
There is no body-checking in women’s hockey so the Raiders will have to tone down the physicality.
“It’s definitely going to be different out there than what we’re used to but it shouldn't be too much of a problem,” Harrison said.
“Lots of us base our game off of grinding and taking the body first and then worrying about pucks second but now we kind of have to worry about getting the puck more than anything because we can’t take the body,” Lazaro added
The Raiders will have to skate like the wind to match Team Canada’s speed game.
“We know they’re going to be a fast team so we’re working on getting back to our positions quickly and defending a quick team,” Lazaro said.
Don’t be surprised if it’s a one-goal game. The Raiders (5-2-1) are 3-2 this season when one goal was the difference between winning and losing.
“One game was a blowout (7-1 over the Fort Saskatchewan Traders on Oct. 12) but the rest were all tight, hard games to play and I guess the rest of the games in the season are going to be like that too,” Lazaro said.
Led by the terrific netminding tandem of Pat Gora (2-1-1, 1.25 GAA and .959 save percentage) and Pat Dea (3-1, 1.51 GAA and .956 save percentage), the Raiders are the AMHL’s top defensive team with 11 goals against.
“We’ve been working on our D zone almost every practice and basically going over the basics,” Klein said.
Offensively, however, the Raiders have struggled to find the back of the net with 20 goals, tied for the lowest total in the north division.
“I think this year (the coaches) built our team more to be like grinders, rather than a goal scoring team,” Klein said. “We just need to cash in on a lot more opportunities but that will come with hard work.”
Lazaro, 16, agreed it’s only a matter of time before the Raiders break out offensively.
“We’re buying into the systems and we’re getting a lot of chances but the puck is not crossing the line,” said the Grade 11 St. Albert Catholic High School student. “We’re getting there and hopefully it starts coming soon.”
The team’s top gun with six goals and eight points in eight games is clicking on a line with Jason Miller and centre Matt McNeil.
“My teammates do all the hard work and they make me look good. The systems we’ve been going off of have also helped me out with scoring too,” said Lazaro, the midget 15 St. Albert Flyers’ leading scorer last season with 46 points in 32 games.
The last game for the Raiders was Wednesday’s 2-1 squeaker against the last-place Rangers (1-8) in St. Albert. Connor Luken’s third goal and sixth point of the season was the winner in period three. Shots were 39-23 for the Raiders and Dea was in net.
“It definitely wasn't a blowout like the last game but we battled through it and earned the win,” said Klein, who scored his first goal of the season in period two on a line with Taylor Lotoski and Wyatt Williams to tie the game.
Klein, 17, joins Miller and Gora as the only returning Raiders from the team’s second-place 19-9-6 finish in the north and division semifinal exit after losing the league final the year before.
“The boys are starting to mesh together better as a team and that's starting to show on the ice,” said the Grade 12 Spruce Grove Composite High School student.
Today at 1:15 p.m. the Raiders host the Canadian Athletic Club (3-4-1) at Akinsdale Arena.