If the first home game of the season can be used as any development marker of future events, the St. Albert Sabres might have an exciting season ahead.
With the bleachers packed full of scouts from various junior teams throughout the region, the Sabres laid it all on the line in Wednesday’s 4-4 draw against the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers in Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League play.
Having already played the PAC Saints a couple of nights prior, which resulted in a 3-1 defeat in Spruce Grove, the Sabres set the tone early at Akinsdale Arena. They quickly scored off a puck that eventually found the back of the net, through the work of Andrew Kary, Taylor Lotoski and Brendan Passek.
After the Sabres put away another puck that barely squeaked past the goaltender off the stick of Tyler Mrkonjic, the Rangers narrowed the lead late in the first.
While it would have been nice to enter the second with a two-goal advantage, Lotoski believes those are some of the areas the team will improve on as the season progresses.
“We have some things that we have to work on,” he said. “We have to keep improving them in the game and practice.”
The second period consisted of a constant attack by the Sabres, but resulted in no goals. They finally broke through in the third on the power play courtesy of Paul Lovsin.
Although the Sabres would quickly lose the lead to the Rangers with two quick goals against, the home team responded to tie the score on a goal credited to Mrkonjic, from Brett Smythe and Matteo Gennaro. It was a situation head coach Umberto Fiorillo wants to see early in the season.
“I like that at the beginning of the year, there was a little adversity there,” said Fiorillo. “I thought it was a good learning lesson at the beginning of the year. No one wins anything in September.”
Sabres goaltender Patrick Dea, who faced a healthy number of shots in the third period, believes his effort was solid enough to anchor the team but like everything else, still needs improvement.
“I had some good saves but I thought I could have stopped some more shots. At least I battled at the end and got it done,” he said.
Lotoski, who also received the game’s first star, was quick to point out the team is essential towards a squad’s success throughout the year, not the individual.
“We will try to win every game as a team, not as individuals. The only I is the one between the w and the n in win.”
Moving forward, coach Fiorillo would like to see improvement in his squad every day, a factor that can lead to instant success.
“My goal is to get better every day and just to stick with the process and the outcome will take care of itself,” he said.
A key factor that might be in the path of the Sabres’ quest for a league championship this year is the widespread equality of talent throughout the league. Fiorillo believes playoff positions will be harder to obtain.
“It’s the first time in a long time where’s there been a lot of parity. The teams look pretty equal.”
The Sabres skate today in Leduc at 2 p.m. At 7:45 p.m. Tuesday they play the Maple Leafs at Coronation Arena.