The St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders are building on last season’s foundation of success with Jack Redlick the foreman of the midget AAA team.
The Raiders showed marked improvement with Redlick at the controls to finish second in the north standings after placing a disappointing ninth in 2015/16.
“It was progressive,” said Redlick of his first stint with the 16-14-4 (103 GF/97 GA) Raiders. “A lot of the work was towards getting the culture back to what the Raiders’ legacy previously was and to be honest with you our record reflected that.”
The Raiders rounded into form after a 3-6-1 start to go 7-7 before the Christmas break and then streaked into the playoffs with a 6-1-3 mark of excellence.
“We only lost one game after Christmas so you kind of saw the progression of our team going forward,” Redlick said.
The playoffs lasted five games as the third-place Leduc Oil Kings prevailed in the deciding contest of the north semifinal 5-2 at Akinsdale Arena.
Leduc went on to win the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League championship.
“Obviously the guys were disappointed when we lost out to Leduc in game five but then they saw there was only one other team that beat them in playoffs, the (Foothills) Bisons, and they won only the one game (in the best-of-five final),” Redlick said. “I got a bunch of texts from our veterans and the feeling was they kind of let an opportunity slip out of their hands there so it was good to hear and good insight and we’ll use that as reflection coming back here for this year. We’ll be leaning on those veterans from that experience this year.”
After Thursday’s cuts, the Raiders were down to 30 players – three netminders, 10 defencemen and 17 forwards – and six are returnees.
“It’s always good to have the experience to carry on that kind of culture that we broke down and kind of built up last season,” Redlick said.
Six players were also at junior camps and three players were on the injury reserve list.
Redlick is “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming season.
“We’re definitely a lot deeper, at least it appears here off the start than we were last year,” Redlick said. “We as a staff did a ton of work in the off-season. We met with the players and coaches from last year, both here in St. Albert and in PAC (Parkland Athletic Club), and talked about intangibles and other things so we did a bunch of homework on guys coming to our group.
“Last year there was a lot of work we had to put in as far as habits and our style of play was, I guess you could say, more of a ‘grind it out’ kind of style,” he added. “We’re going to have more skill so we’ll be able to play a more puck possession style this year.”
The first of five exhibitions for the Raiders is Tuesday against the KC Pats at 7:30 p.m. at Troy Murray Arena.
Thursday the Raiders play the Southside Athletic Club at 7 p.m. at the Akinsdale rink.
“The big thing for us is we need to evaluate the hockey sense and the IQ of the players,” Redlick said. “We won’t be over-coaching them for exhibition. We’re going to give them some systematic structure but it’s going to be a read system off of it. They’re going to have to be able to analyze the play and depending on what’s occurring is where their routes and kind of where their locations are going to be. What that will do is help us analyze players as far as who has the vision and ability to read the hockey sense off of that, so that will be a big component of it.”
Redlick will rely heavily on the veterans to continue the winning culture established last season.
“That carryover needs to happen now, where last year the coaching staff was really big on holding everyone accountable and we’ll continue to do that but now it’s time for those players, especially our returning guys, to start taking that over. There is an old saying that good teams the coaches hold players accountable and great teams the players hold each other accountable and that’s the transition we need to move into this year, so in essence the thing will start to run itself with us kind of overseeing it as it goes,” Redlick said. “Part of our exhibition is going to see which veterans are going to step up from that and show some leadership skills. They understand the expectations so we’ll see which ones carry that over and make sure that they are kind of enforced and it’s carried on to the new guys.”
The league opener for the Raiders is Sept 30 against the host Sherwood Park Kings.