Each boasting a heavily lopsided record in their respective divisions, the city’s most elite hockey teams are wrapping up league play and shifting their focus to a loftier goal: bringing home a provincial championship.
And while realizing that ambition seems eminently doable for every AAA team in the city, each age group will face stiff competition from provincial rivals in the coming weeks.
U15 AAA Sabres
With two games remaining in regular season play, the Gregg Distributors Sabres boast a staggering 30-2 record, good for first place in the Alberta Elite Hockey League’s North Division.
Led by ‘08 forward Ty Meunier, a likely first round pick in the upcoming WHL draft, the Sabres have exploded for 196 goals, allowing only 70 — an accomplishment head coach Geoff Giacobbo chalks up to mastering the little things.
“Our success so far this season can be attributed to our attention to detail combined with the skill and work ethic our group has.”
The Sabres won the provincial championship last year, and now, with a division title clinched, replicating that result is the team’s main focus.
“Our group has set a goal to be back at provincials competing for a spot in the final game,” said Giacobbo, while acknowledging, “there is still work to do.”
Given the league’s standings, that work may involve beating a fierce rival in the South Division’s 31-1 Airdrie Xtreme.
The U17 AAA Tetz Powell CPAs Flyers have won 23 of their 30 league games this season, assuring them a playoff berth, and putting them only three points behind the division-leading Fort Saskatchewan Rangers.
With 50 points in 29 games played, Will Lutic leads not only the Sabres but the entire AEHL in scoring.
Between the pipes, the Flyers benefit from having both of the league’s top-performing goalies in Matthew Kondro (1.79 GAA) and Tanner McBride (2.01 GAA).
U18 AAA Raiders
The U18 AAA Nektar Raiders have won the AEHL’s North Division, coming out on top in 26 of their 38 games this season.
16-year-old netminder Hudson Sedo put on an impressive show of defence this year with the league’s fourth-lowest GAA (2.55).
According to head coach Jack Redlick, the season’s success was borne of a winning mentality.
“It all starts with our players. They come each day with energy and a growth mindset.”
Noting the significant jump in the calibre of play in minor hockey’s highest age bracket, Redlick stressed the importance of physical and mental consistency.
“This group has done well at stepping out of their comfort zone and embracing some new concepts that some of them haven’t heard or seen before. When they are consistent in their compete-level and have a strong attention to detail, they typically find success. They have done well in finding the “why?” behind everything we do as a team.”
“Their maturity as players and as young men has grown throughout the season,” added Redlick. “They’re still young, and there are going to be wrinkles in their game from time to time, but our players have worked hard this season to try to iron out that baseline of consistency.”
Looking forward, Redlick is optimistic about that consistency yielding dividends in the playoffs.
“Our expectation for the group this season is that their focus remains sharp and short — that they take it day by day, focusing on the here and now and what they need to do each day throughout this postseason… If we do this, then we will play to our potential, and we will see where we sit at the end of the year.”
U18 AAA Slash
At the end of the Alberta Female Hockey League’s regular season, the U18 AAA Bauer Slash have the best record in the province: 23 wins and 7 losses. Coming off a bittersweet silver medal performance in 2022, the team is looking to leverage their experience in the postseason.
“Our returning players had a lot more confidence and structure in their game, which has made them more successful,” said head coach Dan Auchenberg.
Thanks in no small part to Lyvia Butz, who leads the team with 24 points on the season, the Slash have won nine of their last ten games. Now, they’re looking to once again punch a ticket to the provincial finals.
“We went into the season with a goal of finishing at the top, especially after the team made it to the finals last year and knew they were so close to gold,” added Auchenberg. “We have a goal of winning provincials and then moving on to Pacifics and Nationals. But we have to get there first. We can’t look too far ahead.”