Slow start rattles Sabres
One tie in two games for bantam AAA team on opening day at John Reid Memorial Tournament
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 18, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres lost their edge on the opening day of the John Reid Memorial Tournament with one tie in two games.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted but we’ll take it over two losses,” said centre Zach Marano, who potted the equalizer in the 2-2 draw with HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Republic on Thursday night at Servus Credit Union Place.
Friday afternoon the Sabres had to beat the Okanagan Hockey Academy of Penticton in their last divisional round-robin game for a shot at advancing into the A-B playoff brackets. The score was unavailable at press time.
“It’s must-win. We have to do everything to win; battle for the inches, battle for everything,” Marano said.
Okanagan was undefeated going into the game after posting victories of 2-1 against the Czechs and 6-3 against the Winnipeg Monarchs.
Visit www.johnreidmemorial.com for playoff schedules and results at the 16-team competition.
The Sabres kicked off the 36th annual bantam AAA tournament with a 5-4 loss to Winnipeg.
“We made a few mistakes that we shouldn't have,” said centre Ryan Cooper, the Sabres’ player of the game with two assists. “We know we can beat these guys. We showed we can compete against one of the best teams in Western Canada.”
The Sabres rallied from a 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes to knot it at two after two periods, then scored twice early in the third before Winnipeg struck three times in a seven-minute span to regain the lead for good.
“We let our foot off the gas,” Cooper said. “We just got too confident.”
Winnipeg scored twice shorthanded in a first period dominated by the Monarchs even though the shot count was 10 apiece.
“The crowd was pretty energetic so we were kind of nervous in the first period but we got the nerves out,” Cooper said.
The Sabres spent the bulk of the middle frame on the power play and were rewarded with a goal by Tyler Collins with 2:50 left in the period.
Aidan Steinke tied it by going top shelf from the side of the net with eight seconds remaining in the second on captain Matt Kasowski’s set-up for his second assist of the period.
Kasowski connected on the power play 25 seconds into the third and Landon Bishop made it 4-2 with 1:43 gone in the period.
The roof then caved in on the Sabres during a three-goal outburst that led to a goaltending change, as starter Nate Reinhart was replaced by Chris Curr after Winnipeg’s fifth goal with 8:51 to go. Reinhart was credited with 17 saves, while Winnipeg goalie Conor Gillis stopped 26 shots.
“We left our goaltender hung out to dry,” said Cooper, a Grade 9 Sir George Simpson student. “They just brought it. We got hemmed in our zone for like 10, 15 minutes. We got caught puck watching. It was just mistakes on those goals.”
Against the Czechs the Sabres pulled even twice in the third as the Europeans struggled to stay out of the penalty box.
“We had a better game against Winnipeg,” Marano said. “This was a close game, and we came out with a tie, but we were hoping for a win.”
A scoreless opening frame featured a couple of golden opportunities for the Sabres on the power play.
A brilliant individual effort by Lukas Frydrych to split the defence before slipping the puck past Curr opened the scoring three minutes into the second.
Cooper, 14, converted a rebound during a five-on-three power play with 15:35 left in the game to tie it at one.
After the Czechs went up 2-1 on captain Marek Skvrne’s goal, Marano scored with 4:08 remaining after the Sabres killed off a too-many-men penalty.
“I was sitting in front of the net and Lucus Palladino walked around and threw it in front. I got the rebound off (the goalie’s) pad and went five hole and scored,” Marano said. “It was really exciting with the crowd and atmosphere and especially to score on a team over here from Europe.”
Curr, the team’s player of the game, finished with 30 saves and Lukas Dostal of the Czechs faced 31 shots.
Marano was impressed by the Czechs.
“They’re a really fast, smart team. They move the puck well. They just don’t hit much,” said the Grade 9 Vincent J. Maloney student.
He added the Czechs would be a “mid-pack” team in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
ICE CHIPS: Today’s A semifinals start at 1:30 p.m. at Northstar Hyundai Arena and 1:45 p.m. at Mark Messier Arena.
Sunday’s final is 2 p.m. at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
The 1983 Territorial Leasing Sabres are the only St. Albert team to win the tournament.
Daily admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Children 10 and under get in free. There is no charge for Raiders Hockey Club and St. Albert Minor Hockey Association players wearing their team jackets.
Ace statistician Bruce Kirby is celebrating his 24th year as the tournament’s stats man.
The 2013 Western Hockey League bantam draft featured 94 players who were tournament participants, of which 37 of the 44 players were selected in the first two rounds.
At last count, 92 tournament alumni have gone on to play in the NHL. The long list of players includes Jarome Iginla, Rob Brown, Greg Hawgood, Geoff Sanderson, Jamie McLennan, Scott and Rob Niedermayer, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Eric Staal, Rod Brind’Amour, Jordan Eberle and most recently, Morgan Rielly.
Toews is the all-time single tournament scoring leader with a whopping 21 goals and 36 points in seven games for the 2003 champion Winnipeg Warriors.