Auditions are underway for leading roles on the St. Albert Raiders.
Sandro Pisani, head coach of the 2012 midget AAA provincial finalists, is looking for players with the will to win.
“The biggest thing is the compete level. We were fortunate last year that we had a lot of guys that played with a lot of compete and a lot of heart. When things get pretty difficult they are the ones that seem to rise to the occasion,” Pisani said. “You’ve got to look beyond the skill set and look for the character and the compete. Those are the guys you really have to work hard to make sure you don’t overlook.”
The tryout process for more than 80 hopefuls from St. Albert and area includes Sunday’s blue versus white intersquad games at 4:30 and 7 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
“It’s always exciting this time of year, getting back into the swing of things and the challenge of putting a competitive team together,” Pisani said. “What starts in camp this Friday isn’t necessarily what’s going to be in our camp. We get a lot of people dropping in at different points so it really makes it difficult.”
The Raiders will play the waiting game for projected arrivals from the Western Hockey League and Alberta Junior Hockey League training camps.
“You talk to different scouts and coaches and they tell you there is certain people that you probably will not see and some people you will see. If you get people you don’t expect back sometimes it impacts you in a pretty positive way,” Pisani said. “You can’t really concern yourself with the guys that are not here because you may never see them. You’ve always got to keep your eye on what’s in front of you and focus on what we have in our camp.”
The Raiders have traditionally been one of the top north division teams in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League during Pisani’s tenure behind the bench. They surpassed the 20-win mark the last three seasons as one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Last season the Raiders were the sixth St. Albert team and the first since 1998 to win the Joe Cherrington Memorial Trophy as the north division playoff winners.
In the best-of-five provincial final the Raiders lost three straight to the Red Deer Rebels. Red Deer went on to win the Telus Cup national championship.
The Raiders finished the playoffs at 6-5 after placing second in the north at 21-9-4.
“We want to build off of a pretty successful season we had last year. We made some good strides and hope to make some even bigger strides this year,” Pisani said.
The Raiders start their pre-season schedule Sept. 10 against the Canadian Athletic Club at 8:15 p.m. at Mark Messier Arena.
The league opener is Sept. 29 against the Sherwood Park Kings at 1:15 p.m. at Akinsdale.