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St. Albert Sabres win 2024 provincial championship

The Sabres won all five of their games against teams from Edmonton, Red Deer, Airdrie and the Sherwood Park
The St. Albert Sabres won bronze at the John Reid Memorial Tournament on Jan. 21, 2024, for the first time in the event’s 45-year history. Here, Sabres captain Colt Carter (left) shows off the bronze medal while assistant captain Ossie McIntyre totes the Heart and Hustle Award for sportsmanship. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Sabres are this year’s U15 AAA provincial hockey champions, winning all five of their games against rival teams from Airdrie, Red Deer, Sherwood Park and Edmonton.

It’s a reversal of fortune from last year when the Sabres made it to provincials but lost all four of their games against opposing teams.

The Sabres defeated the Airdrie Xtreme 5 –2 for the final game on Sunday in Edmonton.

It’s the second time head coach Geoff Giacobbo has led the Sabres to a provincial victory in three years, as the Sabres also won in 2022.

“This will be something that they'll remember forever,” Giacobbo said. “Lots of hockey players play an entire career without winning a championship.”

As soon as the buzzer went, Sabres players flew over the boards and tossed their helmets and sticks into the air.

“I think both teams started out a bit nervous,” Giacobbo said of the championship game between the Sabres and the Xtreme. “In the second period, we … outshot [Airdrie] 29 to six. I think we kind of took the game to them, just with good puck management and solid commitment to defense.”

By the third period the Sabres had a 5 –1 lead, when the Xtreme got a power play bringing the game to 5 –2.

Giacobbo said that the team faced many “competitive games and competitive situations” throughout the year.  “I would say every player on our team was hungry to get better and hungry to learn.”

Left defenseman Jaxon Pisani felt that the toughest match of the tournament was against the Sherwood Park Flyers.

“They’re always physical against us,” he said. “They put up a good fight.”

The Sabres won that match 2 – 1, but for two rounds the teams were tied 1 – 1.

“Everyone just knew we had to pull through, and we had to work together to get the win,” Pisani said. “No one was getting down on each other, and we all just played for each other.”

Centre Ossie McIntyre said that right from the start of the season he expected that the Sabres would make it to the 2024 provincials.

“I felt like we had a good team and role models to help us out,” he said. “We all just wanted to be there and have fun every day.”

As soon as the Sabres played their first provincials game last Thursday, he felt the team “had a way better chance [of victory], and it was a little bit more exciting than last year.”

A large, amped up crowd helped the Sabres get dialled in for the game, he said.

Team captain and defence player Colt Carter said that the team had “buy-in” from every player this year. But they did have to work on their discipline, as he felt they “took a lot of penalties.”

“As the season went on, we got better and started to work better as a group,” he said.

He felt the team’s most difficult matchup in provincials was against the Red Deer Rebels.

In a previous game against the Rebels, a couple of Sabres players got injured, he said.

“They’re a big physical team, but I think we bounced back, and we were also physical against them,” he said.

Winning the championship game was “awesome,” Carter said.

“It was a relief that everything we worked for was finished,” he said. “We all supported each other on the journey and provincials, and I think that brotherhood will stay with me.”

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