Team Alberta skated away with a 3-2 victory over Team Manitoba, overcoming the nerves that coincide with short-term competitions. The team played together as a unit for the first time; their very first practice was two days earlier, the same day the boys all met one another.
“There’s definitely a sense of excitement, we haven’t seen these guys play a game together, we’ve only seen them at the Alberta Cup and at the U16 Summer Camp,” said Head Coach, Serge Lajoie. “We’re excited about what they bring to this team, as a unit of 20, this is their first test so I think the important thing is just to establish our identity quickly.”
Team Alberta was given the opportunity to get on the board with an early powerplay, and even though they sometimes had trouble breaking out of their own end, they would manage to get a puck past the Team Manitoba tender.
David Quenneville (Medicine Hat Tigers) got the puck in the middle of the ice and blasted a slapshot high from the blueline just 1:58 into the game.
Before the game, head coach Lajoie spoke about the importance of the first ten minutes and how the Alberta team would push the pace and getting a quick goal certainly did that.
Shortly thereafter, Team Alberta went back to the powerplay, this time a long one as Team Manitoba took a Check to the Head penalty. Once again, Team Alberta ran into some issues trying to break through the neutral zone with speed. Team Manitoba was able to get into the lanes and disrupt a lot of passes, really clogging things up between the blue lines.
Alberta controlled the play for the majority of the period though and hemmed Team Manitoba into their own end for minutes at a time, but unfortunately were unable to really get many quality shots towards the net.
“We’ve talked about how we can play, the skill-set of this team, the character of this team; we want to be dynamic, push the pace , a lot of tempo, transition quickly, attack north as quickly as possible and good puck movement,” said Coach Lajoie.
It took nearly 15 minutes before Team Manitoba was able to get a shot on Team Alberta’s goalie, Stuart Skinner (Lethbridge Hurricanes), they finished the period with only three shots on net. Meanwhile, Team Alberta had 13 shots on net.
Team Manitoba came out looking a little more settled in the second period, matching up against Alberta more evenly. Once again though, Team Alberta managed to get on the board just 5:37 into the period. Team Alberta captain, Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) fed his Lloydminster Bobcat teammate, Andrew Shaw (Medicine Hat Tigers) who was able to one-time the puck past Ryan Kudic (Vancouver Giants)
The two-goal lead wouldn’t last long however. Just over a minute later, Team Manitoba forced the play in the Alberta end and create a turnover. Brett Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors) was left all alone in front of the net and snapped a shot past Skinner to keep Team Alberta’s lead at one.
But again, just over a minute after that, Sam Steel (Regina Pats) dangled around one defender then fought off another before sliding the puck over to Alex Rotundo (Edmonton Oil Kings) and he would score to put Alberta back up by two goals, which is where the score stood after two periods. Alberta held their lead in shots at 23-9.
“I saw Alex coming in before that and I was hoping he was going to be there and he happened to be there and he put it in like I thought he would,” said Steel.
“With Sam you should always be expecting the pass to come to you. We’ve played together before so we know how each other plays,” replied Rotundo.
Manitoba came out pushing in the third period. Only 2:28 into the frame, a scramble in front of Skinner would end when Dylan Thiessen (Brandon Wheat Kings) slid the puck through on the third or fourth try to make it a 3-2 game.
The rest of the period was very back-and-forth, but most of the chances went Manitoba’s way. Skinner had to make a few big saves to safeguard Alberta’s lead. All the pressure would eventually lead to a Too Many Men penalty with two minutes left in the third.
After a timeout for Manitoba and the team pulling their goalie, they would spend over a minute and half in the Alberta zone with a two man advantage. Using their size to their advantage, three Manitoba players parked themselves in front of the Alberta net and tried to send as many pucks to the net.
It was a furious finish, however Alberta was able to cling to a 3-2 win, with a final shot total of 36-19 in Alberta’s favour.
Next game goes Friday night at 7:00pm against Team Saskatchewan. All minor hockey players that wear their minor hockey jersey or a Halloween costume will get into the game for free!
NOTES: Steel and Rotundo both finished with two points… Cole Johnson picked up the other assist… Team Alberta only had two penalties against…. They were 2/2 on the PK… Kale Clague was named Captain, while Steel, Shaw, and Tyler Benson were named Alternates.