Three St. Albert hockey players will be in Saskatchewan this week to try and win the Centennial Cup for the Red Lake Miners.
Ten hockey teams are in Estevan, Sask., this week for the 2022 Centennial Cup — the national championship for Junior A hockey teams in Canada. (Junior A teams are the tier below Major Junior ones such as the Edmonton Oil Kings.)
St. Albert residents Carter Albrecht, Brady Harroun, and Ethan Pool will be there as wingmen for the Red Lake Miners, a team based in Red Lake, Ont.
It’s the first time in history that the Miners have reached nationals, said head coach Geoff Walker. It has also been a challenging year for the team — they lost a month of play due to the pandemic, and the ice plant at their home rink was broken for about seven weeks.
“These boys have been through a lot of adversity, but I think it made them stronger,” he said.
“I’ve never seen a group lean on each other as much as they did.”
Walker said this tournament is the biggest stage for Junior A hockey in Canada, and the team has been training hard to prepare.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Three from St. Albert
Walker said the Miners had about 10 players from the Edmonton/St. Albert region.
“I think St. Albert is one of, if not the best U16/U18 [hockey] programs in the country,” he said, so the Miners keep scouts here to suss out potential talent.
Walker said Pool is probably the fastest player in the league right now, and is a bit of a Swiss Army knife on the ice, able to play offence or defence. Harroun is a strong skater on the offence, while Albrecht is a very physical player who shows valuable off-ice leadership.
Pool, 19, said the three of them knew each other before joining the Miners from their minor hockey days in St. Albert.
“We grew up together, and to play my junior career with them has just made it more special.”
Pool said the three of them live with host families in Red Lake for about eight months a year as they play hockey and spend the rest of their time back home in St. Albert. Moving to a small town like Red Lake (population: 4,094) was a bit of a culture shock, but the tight-knit nature of the Miners and the community’s passion for hockey helped make him feel welcome.
“Everyone’s like brothers on this team,” Pool said.
Pool said this was the team’s first full season of play since the start of the pandemic. The broken ice plant had been a hassle, as it meant the team either had to drive 45 minutes to the nearest rink in Ear Falls or skate on the local outdoor rink in -30 C weather to practice.
Harroun, 19, was bullish on the Miners’ chances during the tournament, noting that they are ranked among the top 10 teams in the country.
“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of teams.”
Albrecht, 20, said the team to beat will be the Brooks Bandits, which has many college-level athletes and has been the top team nationwide for much of the last season. The Miners will face off against them May 21.
“We’re all looking forward to it,” he said of the tournament, “and we want to make a statement and play our best and have fun.”
Albrecht, Harroun, and Pool said they plan to play another year of Junior A hockey before heading south to play hockey for American colleges (which generally have better scholarships than Canadian schools). Each thanked everyone back in St. Albert for their support.
The Centennial Cup runs from May 19 to 29. The championship game will be broadcast on TSN. Visit bit.ly/3w5go8K for details.