The St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders discovered who they really are while going undefeated in eight games in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
“We’ve figured out what the team’s identity is,” said centre Cam Aucoin of the 10-7-3 north division leaders. “At the start of the year we thought we would be an offensive powerhouse but we’re more of a defensive breakdown team that scores a goal when we need to.”
The Raiders are also “communicating more” after stumbling out of the starting gate at 2-5 and since then “we’ve figured out how to play the penalty kill and the power play and forecheck, all the aspects of the game,” Aucoin said. “We haven’t lost in our last eight games so it doesn’t get any better than that for us.”
The Raiders are rolling like thunder at 5-0-3.
“We’ve moved up in the north from being fourth and made the Mac’s so that means a lot to us as a group,” said Aucoin of the first St. Albert team to qualify for the Mac’s world invitational tournament during the Christmas break in Calgary since the 2012/13 Raiders.
“Ever since we’ve kind of got our spot at the Mac’s we’ve been trying to push ourselves to do better and get that first place like we did and try and space ourselves out from the other teams,” said Brett Bamber, a defenceman who played 12 games with the Drayton Valley Thunder in the Alberta Junior Hockey League at the start of the season before joining the Raiders when the team was below .500.
“We’re starting to build some chemistry. Hanging out with each other every day has been awesome as we get to know the boys and then from there it goes from off ice to on the ice which really helps us out,” Bamber added.
It all starts in the back end for the Raiders moving forward with Mitch Reidy and Evan Fradette as the defensive stalwarts between the pipes. Reidy (7-3-1, 2.04 GAA, .922 save percentage) is the AMHL Source for Sports north division player of the month for November with a stat line of three wins and one loss, five goals against, 1.25 GAA and .947 save percentage.
Fradette (3-4-2, 1.73 GAA, .941 save percentage) posted his second shutout and the team’s third during a seven-game span while stopping 23 shots in last Saturday’s 4-0 road win against the Airdrie Bisons (6-12-2).
Fradette’s first shutout and the second for the Raiders during a weekend homestand after Reidy’s 4-0 goose egg against the Lloydminster Bobcats (16-1-3) was the scoreless draw against the Calgary Royals (12-4-4) Nov. 12.
The top defensive team in the north is fourth overall in the AMHL averaging two goals against per game.
The key is “definitely getting pucks out of our zone,” Bamber said. “We don’t like to be in our zone lots so it’s definitely high off the glass or trying to hit one of the wingers and usually it’s a two pass out of our zone.
“Our puck movement and our control is also really good in the way we get into zones and our forecheck is probably one of the best in the league.”
The Raiders are 4-3-1 as the visiting teams after letting the lead slip away in Sunday’s 3-3 stalemate against the Calgary Flames (10-5-4) at Father David Bauer Arena. The Flames pulled even with 3:04 to play.
“Even though we tied the second game we played a better team game than the first game (in Airdrie). We were in the box a lot and so were they,” said Aucoin, 16.
He closed out the scoring against Airdrie into an empty net and his fifth goal, an unassisted effort, and eighth point of the season made it 2-2 with under six minutes against the Flames.
“I thought at the start of the year I was going to be one of the top scorers on our team which obviously isn’t true right now but I found that if I get to the dirty spots and get to the dirty places on the ice I’ll score some more goals and get more assists,” said the Grade 11 Bellerose Composite High School student and the brother of Parker Aucoin, a former Raider who plays for the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League.
The Raiders are back on the ice today against the Maple Leafs (1-16-3) at 5 p.m. at Bill Hunter Arena and Sunday they host the Sherwood Park Kings (9-11-1) at 1:15 p.m. at Akinsdale Arena.
The last game for the Raiders before the Mac’s tournament is Dec. 19 against the Canadian Olympic women’s team at 7:15 p.m. at Go Auto Arena.
The Olympians are 5-3-1 against AMHL teams this season and the results count in the standings.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased during the first period of the Raiders’ home games on Sunday and Dec. 15 against the Maple Leafs at 7:30 p.m. as well as at Source for Sports St. Albert, online at www.raidershockey.ca or at the door on game day starting at 6 p.m. Seating is general admission.
A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to KidSport.
Opening ceremonies will include the honorary puck drop by Mayor Cathy Heron and the team captains.
Puck toss with prizes during intermission will support the Raiders and the St. Albert Ron Hodgson Slash female midget AAA team.
“It’s going to be a really good experience. To get them to come to St Albert and play against us is awesome. The people in St. Albert get to see Team Canada and you get to see the boys try and compete against them too,” said Bamber, 16, a Grade 11 St. Albert Catholic High School student and the recipient of the 2017 top defenceman award with the midget 15 St. Albert Flyers.