The Midget AAA female St. Albert Slash held its first tryout of the year on Wednesday, holding a full scrimmage at Kinex Arena. Expectations are high after last year’s national championship squad won the Esso Cup in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, defeating Harfangs du Triolet (Quebec) 1-0 in overtime.
The scrimmage was competitive, a 3-2 come-from-behind victory for the yellow side against red, with the winning goal coming with just 50 seconds remaining in the third period. Speed and skill were on display as both goalies were tested in a close game.
With a few holes to fill from last year’s team, the scrimmage was an opportunity for head coach Dan Auchenberg to see the talent that some of the younger girls have.
“It gave us an opportunity to see the young girls from St. Albert who are coming though. There’s some pretty good defencemen, they still need a little experience but that is going to come with time. We’re excited to see what they can do moving forward,” Auchenberg said.
Despite being national champions, Auchenberg knows how he plans to improve the team from last year, and what they will need to work on if they want to repeat.
“We want to be grittier this year. We want girls that are going to be engaged in a positive way and fit the mould that we have already developed here. I’m a person that loves creativity, but it’s what you do without the puck that can make a big difference. I love to see how creative they are with the puck, but also what they do without the puck, and how they can get it back fast so we can manage the game.”
Auchenberg’s vision for this year’s club is a hard-working team that is tough to play against.
“What does grit mean? When you see a gritty player, what does that exemplify? That’s what we’re going to build off of this year, being a harder-working team,” he said.
Defending a national championship isn’t easy, and the road to gold begins at the start of the season. A game against the Slash is going to be a game that every opponent is going to have circled on their calendars for the entire season. Everyone is going to want to see how they measure up to last year’s champs.
“We’re going to be labelled now, which is fine. It makes us more prepared, we’re going to need to be dialed in every game because they’re going to be playing their best against us every night. There is a sense of urgency that has to come from us now every game we play, and that’s ultimately going to make us better,” Auchenberg said.
A successful season doesn’t necessarily hinge on a repeat championship for Auchenberg. Rather, a strong team that plays for one another and grows together is what he as head coach is trying to instill upon the girls.
“I’m not expecting the season that we had last year because everyone is now a little more aware of us, but I am expecting more growth in our year and I think we’ll be better prepared when we do hit the playoffs.”
The regular season begins October 1st with a game against Calgary.