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North America’s best face off at John Reid Memorial

Playing host to some of the top teams throughout Canada and the United States, U15 AAA Sabres have podium hopes stymied in quarter finals.
Bronco Preston Hoppe (L) attracted a crowd during a game between the Humbolt Broncos (in green) and Saskatoon Bandits (in white) in the John Reid Memorial AAA Hockey Tournament at Servus Place in St Albert on Saturday Jan 21, 2023.(JOHN LUCAS/St Albert Gazette)

The 44th annual John Reid Memorial Hockey tournament kicked off last Thursday, transforming the city into a hub for the most promising U15 prospects in the sport. Hosted by St. Albert’s hometown U15 AAA Sabres, the event took place at the three rinks inside Servus Credit Union Place, ending Sunday with a gold medal win by Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

The St. Albert Sabres faced a tough opening opponent in Shattuck, dropping their first game 4-0 Thursday morning. That afternoon, the group bounced back with a landslide 8-2 win over the Greater Vancouver Canadians.

On Friday, the Sabres played Okanagan Hockey Academy Edmonton, eking out a 4-3 win and advancing to the tournament’s A Pool finals.

Unfortunately, St. Albert came out on the wrong side of a hard-fought quarter final contest against Penticton’s Okanagan Hockey Academy, losing out on any hope for a medal.

On Sunday, the Sabres played their final game of the tournament against Kelowna’s RINK Hockey Academy, coached by NHL Hall of Famer and St. Albert Sabres alumni Jarome Iginla — St. Albert lost that matchup 6-1.

“I believe our group was frustrated and disappointed with our outcome," said Sabres Head Coach Geoff Giacobbo. “We showed that we can play fast, but we need to be more consistent with our execution and commitment to defending.”

Despite falling short of their ultimate goal, however, the Sabres did come out of the weekend with a number of successes, including remarkable performances by the team’s leading scorer Ty Meunier and First Team All Star goaltender Finn Werner.

New organizing committee finds success

As usual, this year’s edition of the invitational showcased teams from a range of states and provinces, with groups hailing from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Minnesota, and Colorado. Aside from the players themselves, dozens of WHL scouts were also in attendance, as were over 2,000 fans per day, according to St. Albert Minor Hockey, the body that oversaw the event’s planning and execution.

“This premier tournament brought 300 elite players to the City of St. Albert to compete over four days, and we saw some exceptional hockey,” said St. Albert Minor Hockey Association executive director Jane Sedo. “We were so pleased that the annual tradition could continue in our community this year.”

Despite some uncertainty regarding the structure of the tournament’s planning committee last summer, Sedo is pleased with how the event was carried out.

“In September, we welcomed new committee members to the tournament, and we are incredibly proud of the work they have accomplished in a short time. We also received support from the Reid family, members of the Raiders' program, our business community, and the City of St. Albert, all of who helped to ensure this tournament ran smoothly and was an excellent experience for participants.”

“The quality of play was second to none, and the tournament committee did an outstanding job,” added Giacobbo. “It was a first-class event. You always want to test yourself against the best competition and we were able to do that.”