The U11 St. Albert Junior Raiders Barons have won gold in the Edmonton Federation Hockey League (EFHL) playoffs, capping off a successful season of determined teamwork.
The Barons finished their season 23-1, winning all seven of their playoff games. In their final play-off game against the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers on March 16, the Barons finished strong with 8-3.
Justin Castonguay, team captain and centre for the Barons, scored 111 goals in his season, and is the league leader in goals by a margin of 66. Castonguay said the final game of the playoffs was fraught with bodychecking from the other team, but the Barons played clean and kept their eyes on the prize.
“We got back at them by getting goals in the net,” Castonguay said.
Peter Sinclair, the Barons’ head coach, said Castonguay’s work ethic and team attitude is exceptional.
“He scores a lot of goals, but he’s a great teammate,” Sinclair said.
Castonguay said hockey is his passion, and noted it keeps him close with his family — Justin’s brother, Kevin Castonguay, is also a Barons player, and Justin said their dad’s love of hockey inspires the brothers’ passion and drive.
Alexander Goltz, right wing for the raiders with 38 assists, also said his dad’s encouragement keeps him constantly striving to play to the best of his ability.
“He always wants me to strive to be really good at something, and he likes hockey a lot, too,” Goltz said. “That’s kind of what pushes me up.”
Hard work and striving for excellence is the team’s guiding philosophy this year, Sinclair said.
“One of our key focuses is that nobody outworks the Barons,” Sinclair said. “We’re a very close team … we’ve had lots of individual successes, but also success as a team and as a group.”
In addition to working hard on the ice, the players also raised more than $12,000 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital as part of The Stollery Family Day Classic hockey tournament Feb. 18-21. One player, Sobhe Najmeddine, raised more than $6,000.
On top of raising cash for a good cause, the team also won the Family Day tournament that weekend.
“We definitely came together both on and off the ice,” Sinclair said of the funds raised, in combination with the win.
Most recently, the Barons won the Junior Raiders Spring Invitational March 18-20. The tournament welcomed teams from Prince George, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster, Edmonton, and Calgary.
Keeping talent in St. Albert
The Barons are one of two teams created as part of the Junior Raiders Tier 1 U11 program, which launched this past year. The program aims to stem the loss of talented players leaving St. Albert to join the Hockey Super League (HSL).
Sinclair said the program has allowed elite hockey in St. Albert to flourish even more, noting that every player who stayed has had a “very successful year.”
Coaching the Barons has been “a real treat,” Sinclair said.
“They’re all good buddies and get along really well,” said Sinclair. “We’ve had success, but for me, my favourite part has been seeing the commitment of all the players, parents, and coaches.”