Sabres sharpen up for Reid tournament
Host team for 36th annual bantam AAA tournament plays HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Republic at 8 p.m. Thursday
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres are ready to rattle the best of the best at the John Reid Memorial Tournament.
The 36th annual St. Albert bantam AAA competition at Servus Credit Union Place features a star-studded line-up of top-ranked teams in western Canada, plus HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Republic – the first European entry in tournament history – and the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, Dallas Stars Elite and Phoenix Jr. Coyotes.
“We’re really excited. We usually play better against the stronger teams so I think we’ll do pretty well,” said assistant captain Jack Langenhahn. “We just have to take it one game at a time and do our best.”
The tournament draw consists of four divisions divided into two conferences to declare the playoff pairings in the A, B and C brackets.
In pool play Thursday the Sabres play the Winnipeg Monarchs at 11 a.m. and HC Kometa Brno in the feature game at 8 p.m. The team’s last game before the playoffs is Friday against the Okanagan Hockey Academy of Penticton at 2:15 p.m. Northstar Hyundai Arena is the site for all three games.
“Our goal definitely is to finish at the top of our pool that we’re in. Even though it’s a hard pool I still think we can do it,” said captain Matt Kasowski.
The stands will be packed when the Sabres face-off against the Czechs.
“We’re really excited to play that game. They’re from a different country so it should be cool,” Langenhahn said. “We’ll prepare like we always prepare and play our game and hopefully come out with a win.”
The tournament schedule is on page 53 or visit www.johnreidmemorial.com for game times.
Langenhahn and Kasowski are the only returning Sabres from last year’s 2-3 showing.
The year before the Sabres lost their last four games to finish 1-4 after going 2-3 in 2011 and 3-1-1 in 2010.
“Last year we finished I think 10th in the tournament and we did pretty good. This year we’re feeling confident that we’re a team that can finish there or even better this time around,” Kasowski said. “The big thing is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I know there are scouts everywhere these days, but you just have to go out there and have fun and make sure you pot a few for the team.”
Langenhahn, 14, stressed the Sabres can’t take a shift off in the tournament.
“You’ve got to give it your all every game. They’re all good teams. They’re all good players. You just have to make sure you’re on your game whenever you play,” said the hulking six-foot-four left winger.
He registered only one point in last year’s tournament, but it was a memorable goal to knot it at two in the second period of the 6-4 win over Winnipeg in Thursday’s feature game.
“The crowd was really excited. It was awesome. It felt good,” Langenhahn said.
Kasowski enjoyed being a rink rat at last year’s four-day event.
“The biggest thing I remembered was just being at the rink all day. Living in St. Albert and it being hosted here in St. Albert, there really wasn’t much time to go home and back, so you just stayed at the rink all day. It was great,” said the 14-year-old defenceman who was pointless in five games in the tournament.
The Sabres (14-9-4), ranked third in the very tough nitro north division in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League, were playing their best hockey of the season on the eve of the tournament.
Monday’s 6-5 setback to the nitro-leading SSAC Southgate Lions (22-4-1) – the three-time defending AMBHL champions and 2013 western Canadian gold medallists who lost last year’s tournament final 3-2 to the North Shore Winter Club Hawks – ended a nine-game undefeated streak.
“At the start of the year we used the John Reid as a marker. We said we have to build up to the John Reid and prepare for it because it’s the biggest bantam AAA tournament in western Canada. It’s pretty important,” said Kasowski, a Grade 9 Vimy Ridge Academy student who has five goals and 15 points in 27 games.
Ryan Cooper tallied twice and assisted on Aidan Steinke’s goal with 41 seconds remaining to pull the Sabres to within one of SSAC at Akinsdale Arena.
Langenhahn sniped his team-leading 13th goal and Marcus Walter also scored. Josh Antunes had three helpers.
The Sabres were outshot 34-16. In net was Nate Reinhart (9-5, 2.37 GAA).
The day before the Sabres crushed the Leduc Oil Kings 8-2 in St. Albert for their seventh win in nine games.
“We’ve been preparing more before the games better. We’re taking it more seriously and we’re more focused before the games, which has really helped,” said Langenhahn, a Grade 9 Richard S. Fowler student who is third in team scoring with 25 points in 25 games.
Langenhahn’s hat-trick and Kasowski’s one goal and two assists led the attack against Leduc (6-18-2). Walter, Tyler Collins, Evan Haimila and Zach Marano also scored.
Shots were 34-26 for the Sabres and the winning goalie was Chris Curr (5-4-4, 3.10 GAA).
Defensively the Sabres are second in nitro and fourth overall out of 12 north teams at 73 against and are sixth best offensively with 92 goals.
“We’re really good defensively. We’re really good at collapsing in our own zone. It’s kind of our thing. It’s what we’re known for around the league,” Langenhahn said.
ICE CHIPS: Kasowski and Steinke represented the Sabres at the AMBHL all-star game Saturday at Bill Hunter Arena. Steinke, a centreman who played on the wing, recorded two assists in the first period and Kasowski had one helper for the north all-stars in the 5-4 win. Steinke, the Sabres top scorer with 27 points in 27 games, also needed seven stitches to close a gash on his forehead from a hit midway through the first. He returned to the ice in the middle frame and finished the game.