The St. Albert U16 AA Royals hockey team brought home some hardware after competing in the London Juniors Knights' Fall Classic over the weekend.
The tournament took place over three days and included AA teams from across Ontario. The Royals were the only out-of-province team to play.
Head coach John Haney said the Royals went to the tournament to give the team a chance to challenge themselves in an elite competition.
“We knew that it would present a challenge competition-wise and allow us to measure where we fit across the country,” said Haney. “It’s a first-rate tournament and we had a chance to go up against some of the best U16 AA teams in Ontario.
“Our decision to go was based on a desire to really see how we stacked up against strong teams in our age group and it is our feeling that we fared well.”
The Royals lost 6-1 against the host London Junior Knights in their first game. They had a quick turnaround before losing 2-0 to the Aurora Tigers.
Two losses on day one isn’t ideal, but things turned around on day two of the tourney.
The Royals waltzed into their third game against the Willowdale Hawks with a chip on their shoulders. They fought to pull out a 3-2 victory, bringing their tournament record to 1-2.
They played one last round-robin game against the Northumberland Nighthawks. It was close. A solid performance by Royals goaltender Matteo Madoro led them to a 2-0 win to pull to an even 2-2 record.
That record was good enough for them to advance to the tournament’s consolation final against the Whitby Wildcats. It was a tough matchup that saw both teams trade plenty of scoring chances, but the Royals came out on top to take home a consolation medal.
Haney said he saw good things from the team despite the slow start.
“It took a while to adjust to the large ice surface and tactics used by the Ontario teams,” said Haney. “Once we adjusted our game, we demonstrated that we could play against any of the tournament teams and do well.
“I particularly liked our team’s willingness to engage physically and grind out hard-fought games.”
A few names stood out over the weekend.
“Standout players included [goaltender] Koen Webber, [forward] Nicholas Hamill, who sniped a few beauties, and [defenceman] Jaxon Buchanan, who ripped a power-play goal from the point to give us the game-winning goal against Whitby.”
The team has returned home to play in their regular season. The Royals currently stand at the top of the Rural Edmonton Minor Hockey League (REMHL) with a perfect 5-0-0 record. They will look to make it 6-0-0 this Saturday as they welcome the Strathcona Warriors to Go Auto Arena.