Bring on the Olympians


St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders host the Canadian Olympic women's hockey team Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at Go Auto Arena

Playing the Canadian women’s team will be an Olympic moment for the St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders.

“It’s really exciting. It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said left-winger Jacob Hiemstra of Tuesday’s match that will count in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League standings.

“It’s a game we need to take serious and be focused for it because they do have speed on their side and they’re all great hockey players,” Hiemstra added. “We need to be prepared to win that game just like any other game we have coming up.”

Puck drop is 7:15 p.m. at Go Auto Arena.

General admission tickets are $10 and are available during the first period of Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. game between the Raiders and Maple Leafs on Raiders Day at Akinsdale Arena, as well as at Source for Sports St. Albert and at the door on game day starting at 6 p.m.

A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to KidSport.

Team Canada is 6-4-1 (35 GF/28 GA) against AMHL teams and was also 3-1 in the five-game series against United States before Friday’s clash in San Jose. The score was unavailable at press time.

The series wraps up Sunday at 5 p.m. at Rogers Place.

Meaghan Mikkelson, a two-time Olympic gold medallist from St. Albert, is a fixture on the Team Canada defence.

The Raiders and Team Canada faced off in 2013 and the Olympians outscored the boys 3-1 in the third period to salvage a 3-3 draw in front of a full house at the Servus Credit Union Place.

The Raiders will have to tone down the physicality as there is no body checking in women’s hockey.

“We’re definitely going to have to change our game a bit but it’s not really going to change our play style. We’re still going to play our game,” said defenceman Ryan Harker. “All the boys are really excited. We’re ready to go.”

It’s also the last game before the 40th annual Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament in Calgary.

“We’ll take it the same at the Mac’s as we do now and that’s be ready to play every game with our best performance,” Hiemstra said.

The 25-team draw consists of five pools and the Raiders play the Calgary Royals on Dec. 26 at 10 a.m., Tisdale Trojans on Dec. 27 at 5:15 p.m., Fraser Valley Thunderbirds on Dec. 28 at 5:15 p.m. and the Hungarian national U18 team on Dec. 30 at 11:45 a.m.

“It’s going to be a new environment for us playing a team like Hungary,” Harker said.

The last St. Albert team to qualify for the Mac’s was the 2012/13 Raiders, quarter-finalists with a 3-2 record.

“We’re going to have a lot of pressure but I think we’re going to handle it pretty well,” Harker said.

The Raiders streak into today’s game against the Canadian Athletic Club (6-14-2) undefeated in 10 games as the north division leaders. Faceoff is 5 p.m. at Bill Hunter Arena.

The top defensive team in the north is averaging 2.04 goals against per game which is fourth best in the AMHL.

“We want to keep getting better every practice and every game but trying not to hit our peak too soon,” said Harker of the Raiders rolling along at a rapid 6-0-4 pace.

“We need to stay focused and be prepared at the beginning of our games. We also need to make sure we stay working as a 20-man unit. We don’t start to fall apart and be individuals. We have to stay very tight as a unit,” said Hiemstra.

The Grade 12 Memorial Composite High School student is the leading goal scorer on the Raiders with eight after sniping singles last weekend in the 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs (1-18-3) at Bill Hunter Arena and the 2-2 draw with the Sherwood Park Kings (9-11-3) in St. Albert.

The trio of Hiemstra (11 points), Cam Aucoin (five goals, 12 points) and Erik Boers (three goals, six points) have packed a punch offensively in recent games.

“Our line has been playing very well,” said Hiemstra, who recorded six goals and 14 points in 34 games last season with the midget AAA KC Pats after spending his midget 15 campaign with the PAC Saints.

It was a near perfect weekend for the Raiders except for the game-tying goal by the Kings at 4:47 of the third period.

“We didn’t play as strong as we probably would’ve expected but we still came up with three points though,” said Harker, 16.

The Grade 11 Spruce Grove Composite High School student is the highest-scoring blueliner on the Raiders with 12 points while joined at the hip with Brock Bartholomew, his defensive partner since last season with the midget 15 PAC Saints.

Hiemstra, 17, viewed the weekend results with mixed reviews.

“We could’ve done a lot better against a team like MLAC (Maple Leafs) but it was best for us to have that because the next game we played a lot better instead of blowing out one team and then coming back and thinking we got this in the bag the next game.”


About Author

Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.