A rare loss for the St. Albert Slash wasn’t so bad after all.
The team to beat in the Alberta Female Hockey League as the two-time defending Esso Cup midget AAA national champions turned a negative 3-2 shortcoming against the Calgary Fire into four positive shutout victories in a row.
“It was good for us to lose a game,” said left-winger Jaden Bogden of the 23-2-1 Slash. “It’s some adversity for us. It was definitely an eye-opener that we can’t just beat every team. Sometimes it’s going to take more than talent, which is why we’re focusing more on the hard work aspect now.
“Our coach (Dan Auchenberg) always says that good teams don’t lose two in a row and we take that to heart, too.”
The Jan. 27 loss in Calgary, which pumped the brakes on a 12-game winning streak, was another example why the Slash have an enormous target on their backs.
“Nobody wants us to win, right? There is a lot of people that do but mostly in the hockey world everybody wants somebody else to win this year, so that’s a lot of fire for us. It’s really pushing us.”
Is it like the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl all the time?
“Yeah, exactly. We keep coming back,” Bogden said. “We’re really excited to keep on winning.”
The first Alberta team to win the Esso Cup in 2017 and the first team to win back-to-back championships in the tournament’s 10-year history has four games left before hosting the AFHL provincial Final Frozen Four, March 22 to 24.
The winner also hosts the British Columbia champion in the best-of-three Pacific Region national qualifier and the Esso Cup is April 21 to 27 in Sudbury, Ont.
“We’re excited to have it in our barn especially knowing that if we win it, then Pacifics is also in our barn and having everything here is going to give us more energy. I don’t think it’s going to be a downfall at all,” Bogden said.
When a team is averaging 4.11 goals per game while letting in only 21 in 26 games, it’s hard to believe there is still room for improvement but the Slash continue to sharpen their skills to a razor’s edge.
“We’re make sure we’re gritty players, we’re taking the body and paying the price like playing for each other. We’re focusing on exactly what it took last year to win and that’s hard work. We battled because everyone was against us, but we kept going and that’s a huge thing especially coming into this year,” said Bogden, one of nine returnees that includes third-year players Isabelle Lajoie, Makenna Schuttler, Taylor Anker, netminder Brianna Sank and captain Madison Willan.
“Last year's team was really talented (34-11-1 overall after going 38-4-1 in 2016-17) and this year’s team is again very talented. Last year we just had more experience, we had more girls go to Canada’s nationals with Team Alberta and stuff like that, and this year we have a little less than that, but the teams are very similar in terms of working hard and having the same values. The culture is the exact same as last year, too,” Bogden said.
Defensively the Slash are in a league of their own with 13 shutouts – seven by Sank (11-2-1, 0.93 GAA) and six for Borrett (12-0, 0.67 GAA).
The next-best defensive record in the AFHL is 40 goals against in 25 games by the second-place Lloydminster Steelers with Bella McKee (10-3-1, 1.28 GAA), the league MVP in 2018, posting four shutouts.
“Our D zone is a big aspect of our game and we focus on blocking shots a lot and moving players out of zone,” Bogden said. "In the last five minutes in every game, if they haven’t scored a goal yet we definitely want to win that for the goalies so we make sure we’re getting into the lanes and doing the little things to execute the big things.”
Bogden, a former bantam elite Edmonton Panda, ranks second in AFHL scoring with 46 points and is third in goals with 15 while playing for a good chunk of the season on a line with Willan, the league’s top scorer with 23 goals, 23 assists and 46 points, and first-year Jenna Goodwin (10-14-24).
Bogden, 16, also cracked the Team Alberta lineup for the Canada Winter Games, along with Lajoie and Brooklyn Schroeder.
The U18 female hockey component of the Games starts Feb. 24 in Red Deer.
“It’s amazing. It’s such an honour and it’s going to be a huge great experience. I’m unbelievably excited,” said Bogden, a Grade 11 home school student in Edmonton. “It’s going to be awesome, especially knowing I have two of my own teammates with me there. I’m not going to get homesick at all.”
Sunday the Slash travel to Lloydminster to play the Steelers (19-5-1) at 10:15 a.m.
Next weekend the Slash host the Steelers on Friday and Calgary (15-8-3) on Saturday. Faceoff times are 7:45 p.m. at Go Auto Arena and the Slash are winners of 11 in a row on home ice.