A loss is still a loss for the St. Albert Tire Warehouse Raiders even if it’s against the Canadian Olympic women’s team.
Tuesday’s 2-1 outcome against Team Canada that ended a 12-game undefeated streak was also the last tune up before the 40th annual Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament in Calgary.
“We’ve got to put this behind us,” said assistant captain Eddie Gallagher, the goal scorer against the Olympians. “Don’t just let this be a loss but make it a learning lesson heading into the Mac’s prepared and ready to go.”
The Raiders (13-8-4) won eight and tied four before Team Canada handed the top north division team in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey league its first loss since Nov. 5 during the Showcase Extravaganza weekend in St. Albert.
“We lost but it was good experience. We’ll use it to get back on track,” said captain Mason Rezewski.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Raiders with the Mac’s starting Tuesday.
“We want to elevate our game to that next level for the Mac’s and show everybody how good we really are,” Gallagher said. “When we were on that roll we bought into the systems and listened to what the coaches were saying. We played some pretty good hockey and we have to continue that at the Mac’s.”
It’s a pretty big deal for the first St. Albert team at the Mac’s since the 2012/13 Raiders finished 3-2 as quarter-finalists.
“We’re looking to go there and show everybody the Raiders Hockey Club is obviously a great organization and showcase our team well and individually too,” Rezewski said. “You get individual success from team success.”
The Raiders shifted gears after a season-opening five losses in seven games.
“We’ve come a long way from the start of the year. The last 12 games was phenomenal for us, not losing is obviously good, and we’re hoping to go there and show everybody that we’re a contender,” Rezewski said. “We’re there to win.”
The Raiders are among 25 teams split into five pools and they play Tuesday against the Calgary Royals at 10 a.m., Wednesday against the Tisdale Trojans at 5:15 p.m., Thursday against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds at 5:15 p.m. and next Saturday against the Hungarian national U18 team at 11:45 a.m.
“We’re always looking at the game right in front of us and once we finish that we move on to the next game,” Rezewski said. “We’re approaching it kind of like today’s game. The hype is there. A lot more fans. There will be scouts there. Just a lot more everything.
“We’ve talked about it and we’ve done some breathing exercises and we’ve had people in to talk to us so we’re mentally preparing off the ice,” added Rezewski, a Grade 11 Bellerose Composite High School student.
The Raiders were somewhat skittish in the opening 20 minutes against Team Canada as the Olympians struck twice on five shots against Mitch Reidy (8-4-2, 2.10 GAA). Sarah Potomak zinged the puck in off the post high on the glove side from the faceoff circle at 5:45 and 21 seconds later Blayre Turnbull found the same sweet spot against Reidy from basically the same scoring range on the third shot of the game by the Olympians.
Shots were 5-4 for Team Canada after the first.
“Yes, there was definitely some starting jitters with such a big crowd because most of us have never played in front of such a big crowd like that,” said Gallagher.
The right winger’s fourth goal and 15th point on the team’s 10th shot of the night put the Raiders on the board at 6:45 of the second.
“Brady Nicholas made a great play in the corner and got it out to Aidan West and he got off an amazing shot. There was a battle in front and it just ended up going in,” Gallagher said. “It was a incredible feeling. A very exciting moment.”
The Raiders outshot Team Canada 15-8 in the period and 29-14 overall as Genevieve Lacasse went the distance in net for the Olympians, who are 7-4-2 (39 GF/31 GA) against AMHL teams and the points count in the league standings.
Evan Fradette (5-4-2, 1.80 GAA), who stopped six shots while tending the twine in the second half of the contest, was pulled for the extra attacker with 59 seconds to go and Lacasse’s pad save on Gallagher with time running out preserved the win.
Gallagher, 16, summed up one of the highlights of his career.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not many people get this opportunity and I feel very privileged and honoured that I got the chance to play against them,” said the Grade 12 St. Albert Catholic High School student. “They’re a lot tougher and a lot harder than I thought they were going to be. They’re definitely no pushovers. They’re real tough in the corners. They work really hard. They’re a real good team.”
The Raiders skated like the wind to stay close with the speedy and skilful Olympians while trying to stay out of the penalty box since there is no body checking in women’s hockey.
“Taking hitting out of the game it’s obviously different. It’s a lot more puck movement and they moved the puck phenomenally. You’ve got to support all over the ice,” said Rezewski, 16, a physical defenceman who was penalized for bodychecking in the middle frame.
“We’re happy to be involved in their journey to the Olympics.”
ICE CHIPS: Kyle Fulton, a defenceman, was tagged with a check to the head infraction in the first and Team Canada served two minors.
In the shootout, a fixture after every game between the Olympians and AMHL teams, Team Canada scored on its first and last shots in the six-round showdown and Jacob Charko tied it as the fifth shooter for the Raiders.
The next league game for the Raiders is Jan. 7 against the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (6-17-2) at 2:30 p.m. at JRC Arena.