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    Categories: Local Sports

Big jump for Steel rookie

David Randall’s first season with the St. Albert Steel has been too good to be true.

“It’s gone a lot better than I expected,” said the 16-year-old defenceman. “I didn’t expect to be playing 30 games in the first half, I expected 30 games the whole season. It’s been a lot more than I expected and I hope it continues like this.”

In 31 of the Steel’s 36 games, Randall’s offensive contributions included his first Alberta Junior Hockey League goal — unassisted in Fort McMurray against Davis Jones in the 7-6 overtime loss Dec. 12 — and four assists. His point totals are third best among Steel defencemen.

“I’m a small, puck-moving D-man and our team is built on big, burly defencemen in the back end except for [Thomas Ward] Cardinal,” he said. “My puck moving adds a different element to the game that our team didn’t have before I got here.”

Randall is generously listed at five-foot-eight and 170 pounds.

“Last year in midget I would be playing 18-year-old guys who were 200 pounds but now I’m playing 20-year-olds who are 200 pounds so it’s twice as much muscle and it’s twice as hard to move them,” he said. “I’m not a very physical player and that can get me beat sometimes in the corners.”

Randall hails from Calgary as a product of the Edge School hockey academy. Steel rookie Tanner Labbe, 18, was a teammate of Randall’s last season. Derek Bacon and Brandon Fagerheim of the Steel are also Edge alumni.

“At the Edge we focus on hockey just as much as we focus on school. We’re on the ice every day. We’re in the weight room almost every day. We just get that edge every day at improving and getting better and better,” said Randall.

He played 50 games in midget AA and 30 in midget AAA with the Edge in 2009/10.

“I definitely travelled a lot more last year with our midget teams.”

Randall hooked up with the Steel after assistant coach Shawn Martin saw his skill level at a tournament in Prince Albert as an affiliate with the Edge midget AAA team.

“About a week before [the Steel’s]spring camp he called me so I headed here. I wasn’t really expecting to get anything except some ice time. I guess they really liked me so they told me to come back and pack my bags for the whole season.”

The Grade 11 Paul Kane High School student was looking forward to the Christmas break in the AJHL schedule to visit family and friends.

“I haven’t been home in exactly four months so it’s pretty hard not seeing my parents a whole lot.”

The Steel’s last game before the holidays was last Wednesday’s disappointing 8-4 loss at home to the Bonnyville Pontiacs. In the north standings, Bonnyville (25-8-7) is tied for second with 15 more points than the Steel (20-14-2), who share sixth place with the Sherwood Park Crusaders (19-16-4) with three games in hand. The Steel are also five points back of the fifth-place Lloydminster Bobcats (23-16-1) with four games in hand.

The Steel are 12-8-1 at home after their third straight loss at Performance Arena in which they’ve been outscored 19-9.

Their league record in December was 3-4-2 and in every game but one they were outshot, including a hefty 48-23 margin against Bonnyville.

“Our season has been a little inconsistent but overall it’s been real good,” Randall said. “We started out half-decent then we got really hot and now we’re kind of on a downfall.”

The Steel ring in the new year Monday against the fourth-place Grande Prairie Storm (23-13-3) at 7 p.m. at Performance. It’s the last home game until Jan. 19, with seven road games scheduled over a span of 12 days because of the World Financial Group Continental Cup, Jan. 13 to 16 at Servus Credit Union Place.

Jeff Hansen: Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.