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Slash focused on four-peat

Winners of three-straight Esso Cup midget AAA female national championships
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It’s business as usual for the St. Albert Slash.

The midget AAA female hockey team is working towards another winning season as the three-time reigning Esso Cup national champions.

“The culture is still the same and we have the same goal. We’re pursing a four-peat and we want to be playing in that (gold-medal) game,” said right-winger Jaden Bogden at Thursday’s practice at Go Auto Arena.

The journey to the 12th annual Esso Cup in Saskatoon starts with the Alberta Female Hockey League lid-lifter Friday against the Lloydminster Steelers. Faceoff is 7 p.m. at Landrex Arena in Morinville.

The home opener is Oct. 6 against the Rocky Mountain Raiders at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s really exciting coming back obviously from a three-peat,” said Bogden, a third-year Slasher. “We have a younger team this year, but all the girls are really culturing in and pursuing that we want to be the same as last year and the year before, and that's a hard working team and really sticking together.”

The pressure to perform at a national-championship level will continue to engulf the Slash.

“Last year everyone wanted to beat us and everyone hated us, but I can’t imagine what this year is going to be like,” said Holly Borrett, a returning netminder. “It’s good though because every team is going to hate to play us, but if we play our game and play hard, we’ll be good.”

Bogden downplayed the stress of living up to the hype as the team to beat.

“It’s almost less now because we’ve had the pressure of it each year kind of building, but now it’s kind of reassuring that, OK we know what to do to get back to (the Esso Cup), and as long as we stick to how we play and our hard work we’ll be fine,” said the Grade 12 O’Leary High School student.

Roughly half the Slash roster is back from the 2018/19 lineup that finished 36-5-2 overall in the AFHL, Final Frozen Four provincials, Pacific Region national qualifier and Esso Cup after posting a 26-3-1 mark in the regular season.

The 2019 championship team featured nine returnees from the 34-11-1 national repeat season, including five third years from the first St. Albert female team to capture the Esso Cup in 2017.

“We’re super excited from our success in the past and I’m excited to share it with the girls that  have never been here before,” Borrett said. “We have a really young team, but we’re highly skilled and if we get things done we’ll be back at Esso hopefully.”

Speed highlights the Slash preseason reviews.

“We were a fast team last year, but definitely we’re quick. We have a lot of great skaters on the team and we play fast hockey, whether that's in our D zone or neutral zone or offensive zone,” Bogden said.

The Slash wrapped up exhibition action with the 2-0 win against the host Red Deer Chiefs last weekend as Kamea Brezovski and Alli Reich potted goals and Borrett and Mable Maltais split the shutout.

The team’s 6-2-1 preseason record included three shutouts, plus the 2-2-1 showing as the fourth-place finishers at the Calgary Firestarter Tournament and the last two games were losses of 2-1 to the Edmonton Pandas in the semifinals and 3-1 to Calgary Fire in the final.

“Our team wasn't necessarily made fully then so we were still getting to know each other and getting to know how each other plays so it doesn’t determine how we’re going to place going into the season,” Bogden said.

“We didn't really have any plays and other teams had their tacticals down,” Borrett added. “We did good considering we didn't really have our full team either.”

Borrett is expected to move into the starter’s role with more minutes between the pipes after serving as strong backup to Briana Sank as the 2018 AFHL midget elite netminder of the year with the St. Albert Sharks.

Borrett (13-1, 0.86 GAA) and Sank (13-2-1,0.81 GAA), who has since graduated from the team, also combined for 15 shutouts in the AFHL regular season with Borrett posting six.

Borrett also registered a shutout at the Esso Cup in Sudbury, Ont., while stopping 39 of 40 shots in 106 minutes played.

“It will be different. Last year I was kind of like rotating,” said the Grade 12 Bellerose Composite High School student. “This year, defensively we’re a little weaker than last year as we have no third years but it will be a good year.”

Borrett, 16, is also among seven Slashers on the 28-player U18 Team Alberta shortlist roster along with defenceman Dayle Ross and Bogden, Reich, Bronwyn Boucher, Natalie Kieser and Brooklyn Schroeder as forwards. Tryouts continue this weekend with the fall selection camp at Clare Drake Arena to finalize the provincial squad for the U18 nationals in November at Morden and Winkler, Man.

Bogden and Schroeder were joined by Slash graduate Isabelle Lajoie on the 2019 gold-medal winning U18 provincial team at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

Bogden, 17, will be counted on to pile up the points as a major offensive catalyst with the graduation of captain Madison Willan and the AFHL’s leading scorer with 24 goals, including a league-high seven on the power play, 27 assists and 51 points in 30 games for her second scoring crown in three years.

Bogden was the runner-up in the scoring race with 32 points in 28 games and was fourth in goals with 16.

“I’m really focusing on having an edge when I play, especially in the offensive zone,” said the U18 Team Canada player who competed in the three-game series against the United States in August at Lake Placid, N.Y.

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