The St. Albert Raiders unveiled their midget AAA lineup to mixed reviews last weekend.
The Raiders doubled the Maple Leafs 4-2 at Bill Hunter Arena and were humbled 8-1 by the Southside Athletic Club in St. Albert.
“It was good to get the nerves out and get everyone ready to go, especially for the first year and second year guys that haven’t played in the league before,” said Nick Sutter, a returning defenceman from the 2014 north division playoff finalists.
In the season opener the Raiders led 3-0 after two periods on a pair of goals by Parker AuCoin and Riley Smith’s power-play tally midway in period two.
The Maple Leafs potted a pair in the third before Tyson Chizma scored the insurance marker with 6:14 to play. Ryan Cox assisted on both of AuCoin’s goals.
Shots were 30-25 for the Raiders and Joshua Dechaine posted the win in net.
“It was a pretty solid game. We had a good forecheck and we kept it solid for pretty much the full 60 minutes,” Sutter said. “We got some nice goals and scored a lot, compared to last year when we didn’t score as much.”
The next day the Raiders fell behind 5-0 before Zach Sherburne ended Matt Berlin’s shutout bid with 15:28 to play. Kole Bryks and Brayden Nicholetts drew assists. Berlin posted 20 saves for the win.
The Southside capitalized four times on the power play as the Raiders piled up the penalties.
Dechaine surrendered four goals on 25 shots before Ethan Crotty entered the game with under 13 minutes to go in the second. Crotty let in four goals in the third, with the last two coming on the power play, while making 14 saves overall.
“We had too many passengers. We didn’t all show up to play a full 60,” Sutter said. “We had our moments (scoring-wise) and we couldn’t really capitalize on our chances. We weren’t shooting the puck when we needed to.”
Sutter highlighted several positives in the team’s performance during the weekend split.
“We’re a good two-way team. We like to hit, which is nice, so we can play a good physical game. We’ve got more offensive power and that is really nice so maybe we’ll get a few more goals this year. We also have a solid D core with the four returning D (in Brendan Kallis, Luigi Naccarato, Bryks and Sutter),” said the Grade 12 Spruce Grove Composite High School student.
The Raiders had 23 players listed on their roster last weekend and Sutter was among five skaters back from the team’s fifth-place 18-11-6 showing in 2013/14. He cracked the lineup last season after playing midget 15 with the Spruce Grove PAC Saints and in 34 games with the Raiders recorded three goals, five points and 28 penalty minutes.
The six-foot-one stay-at-home physical blueliner with a hard shot attended Alberta Junior Hockey League training camps with the Spruce Grove Saints and Olds Grizzlys before returning to the Raiders.
Despite the turnover in talent Sutter believes the Raiders will remain competitive.
“It’s just a matter of all of us buying in and becoming tight, especially on and off the ice, and buying into the coaches’ systems and playing as a team and not being selfish,” he said. ‘We need to talk more on the ice. We’re getting to know each other a lot better so that’s going to help out a lot.”
Saturday the Raiders host the Calgary Northstars at 8 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena and Sunday they play the Kings in Sherwood Park at 6:30 p.m.