The longest serving player in St. Albert Steel history is happy to still be with the Alberta Junior Hockey League team.
“It’s obviously a cool thing to have been around here since the start. To have lasted this long without getting shipped off is a good feeling,” Mike Giese said after the Steel edged the Sherwood Park Crusaders 2-1 in Sunday’s exhibition at Performance Arena.
The 20-year-old centre broke into the AJHL after playing midget AAA with the KC Pats. In the Steel’s 2007/08 debut in St. Albert as the transplanted Fort Saskatchewan Traders, he tallied six goals and six assists in 55 games.
In 155 games over three seasons, the five-foot-five pepper pot notched 16 goals and added 24 assists to go with a feisty 250 penalty minutes.
Giese is also 25 games away from surpassing Bryce Williamson for the most games played in Steel history.
“I’m the only fourth year guy on the team so I will definitely be looked at as a leader and I’m definitely willing to step up and accept that role. There are a lot of young guys on the team this year and I want to help them out,” said the 2009/10 recipient of the Steel’s unsung hero award.
Giese is coming off a career low two goals and 11 points in 50 games. He went 40 games without a goal before lighting the lamp Jan. 9 in Okotoks. The next day in Olds he scored again.
“It was a little disappointing on the offensive end of things but overall I thought it was a pretty good season for myself.”
Giese is a disturber bent on destruction. He likes to muck it up and get his nose dirty.
“I will definitely be looked upon to stir some stuff up again this year but I would also like to pitch in with the offence.”
The candidate for third-line status should see his ice time increase drastically.
“Whenever you get extra ice time, you always have more opportunities to put the puck into the net so that will help for sure.”
Mixing it up
Giese was at his antagonizing best against the Crusaders in the A final of the four-team pre-season tournament. His heart-and-hustle brand of hockey gave the visitors fits. He also stood up for his Steel teammates. Late in period two, during a scrum after the whistle, Dan Starosta started jabbing his stick into the back leg of a Steel player engaged with a Crusader. Giese immediately jumped the culprit and a brief wrestling match ensued before the linesmen broke it up. Starosta got four minutes for spearing and a misconduct. Giese was tagged with a roughing minor and misconduct.
With 1:56 to play in the penalty-filled affair, Giese and Starosta staged a brief scrap. Giese lost his helmet in the process as the combatants toppled onto the ice as the linesmen intervened.
“That’s the kind of stuff I like to do. I’ve always played that role on this team and I will keep on doing it,” Giese said.
The Steel and Crusaders combined for 156 PIM in the fourth game in three days for both teams in the tournament. They play a home-and-home series to wrap up the exhibition schedule, starting Thursday in St. Albert. The rematch is Saturday in Sherwood Park. Game times are 7 p.m.
“Whenever it’s us against Sherwood Park, it’s always been a battle so after this little bit of rough stuff tonight it should make for some pretty exciting back to back games this week,” Giese said.
In Sunday’s win rookie Ryan Berlin and veteran Spencer Pommells scored on the power play. On Pommells’ goal, rookie Carter Proft did an outstanding job of screening netminder Pat Terriss. His defencemen couldn’t move the determined Proft despite their roughhouse tactics. After the puck slid into the net under a pile of bodies, Matt Ketza of the Crusaders took issues with Proft and tried to fight him. Both players received misconducts, with Ketza drawing the roughing minor.
Shots on goal were 21-20 for the Crusaders. Going the distance in the Steel net was Rhys Hadfield, formerly of the Grande Prairie Storm and the Nanaimo Clippers. He was impressive in the last period as the Steel hung on for the win while outshot 9-4.
The Steel finished 3-1 in the tournament, with victories of 6-4 against the Spruce Grove Saints and 4-1 against the Drayton Valley Thunder and a 4-2 loss to the Crusaders. The most experienced line-up the Steel put on the ice was Sunday with 11 players off last season’s roster.
“The tournament went really well. We’ve got a lot of young guys that showed how really good they are,” Giese said.
As for where the Steel will finish in the north division, where every team but one makes the playoffs, Giese expects to see improvement on their seventh-place, 24-win and 55-point performance from the previous season.
“We have a lot of returning guys that are important to our team and as a group we agree we’re going to surprise some people this year,” he said. “People are expecting after we lost some of our big guys like Williamson [the co-recipient of the Ernie Love Trophy as the AJHL’s scoring champion with 107 points]that we would fall off a little bit but we brought in some new recruits and they will definitely help our team out this year.”
League play starts Sept. 10 when the Steel host the Drumheller Dragons at 7 p.m.
“I want to get going now. I’ve been waiting all summer for the regular season to start,” said Giese, a graduate of St. Francis Xavier High School who is looking to score a scholarship in his final junior A season.