The St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres are looking forward to the rest of the season after finishing the John Reid Memorial Tournament with two wins in five games.
“We’re going to put this in the past. We definitely learned from this and it’s going to help us in the long run,” said assistant captain Ashton Hutchinson.
The Sabres (20-5-1), ranked second behind the Red Deer Rebels (20-2-2) in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League, have seven games left, plus next week’s Kelowna tournament, before the playoffs start.
“We’ve got to take all the positives that we did in this tournament and put them in the Kelowna tournament and the playoffs,” said centre Evan Sundar. “We’ve got to keep focusing on what our task ahead is and just come ready to play every single game.”
In three tournament losses, the Sabres were outscored 21-11 and outshot 141-59.
“We had some ups and downs, but we played well,” Hutchinson said. “We played some hard teams, but we kept it going.”
In Sunday’s B final, netminder Adam Chin was bombarded with 53 shots in the 7-5 loss to the West Van Academy Warriors (3-2).
"He’s a stud out there. He played well the whole tournament,” Hutchinson said of Chin, who stopped 24 shots in the tournament-opening 4-0 shutout of the Balgonie (Sask.) Prairie Storm (3-2) Thursday.
The Warriors posted period leads of 2-1 and 4-3 while outshooting the Sabres 15-6 in the first and 21-4 in the second. The total shot count for the Sabres was 19.
The teams traded goals the rest of the game after the Warriors potted a pair less than two minutes before the five-minute mark of the first.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted to, but we played our hearts out and battled to the end. We just had some bad bounces,” said Hutchinson, the team’s player of the game with two goals and one assist.
Johnny Ballos, Jaden Beauchamp and Jacob Goudreau also scored and Tyden Redlick picked up two assists.
Goudreau led the Sabres in tournament scoring with six points and tied Hutchinson for the most goals with four apiece.
Saturday’s B semifinal, 4-3 over the Lloydminster Bobcats (2-3), was arguably the best game of the bunch for the Sabres.
The Bobcats (13-4) are first in the AMBHL’s charger north division and one of the victories in league play for the Sabres was 6-3 Nov. 23 in Lloydminster.
“It’s a big win. We can see that they’re getting better, but we’ve just got to get better so we keep beating them,” Sundar said.
The Sabres went 4-for-8 on the power play as Sundar notched the winner with 1:30 play.
Jack Ketsa knot it at four 69 seconds after the Bobcats made it 3-2 at 3:20 of the third.
Shots were 37-29 for the Bobcats, 1-for-10 on the power play, as Luke Roberts rose to the challenge between the pipes.
Hutchinson and Ben Costantino also slotted goals.
“That was a big game for us and our goalie played really well,” said Hutchinson, a right winger who recorded five points in three games.
The Sabres were coming off losses of 6-3 to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings (2-3) and 8-3 to the St. George’s Saints (4-2) of Vancouver to close out pool play in the SkyBox Grill division.
Roberts was tested 52 times by the Kings and Chin was victimized by the Saints for four unanswered goals, including one on the power play, on 15 shots in the third while facing 36 overall.
In the opening period, the Saints capitalized once with the man advantage and also scored on a penalty shot and in the middle frame the team’s shorthanded goal expanded the lead to 4-1.
“Against St. George’s we could’ve did a bit better, but otherwise we had a good tournament as a team,” said Sundar, noting the Sabres worked better as a unit, “when we’re all positive like on the bench and we’re moving the puck around.”
The Sabres improved on last year’s 1-4 tournament result while equalling their 2-3 mark in 2018.
The team’s performance was also reflective of its league record after going 13-15-5 in the regular season and 3-2 in the playoffs as nitro north division finalists.
“A lot of teams come after us because we're one of the top teams in the league, but we hold our ground,” said Hutchinson, 14, a returning Sabre along with Roberts, defenceman Ben Belyea and captain Carmelo Crandell.
“We’ve got better people this year and it’s going well,” sad Hutchinson, a Grade 9 Vincent J. Maloney student.
Heart and hustle
The tournament highlight for the Sabres was the presentation of the John Reid Memorial Award for heart and hustle to Sundar at Saturday’s banquet.
“I was so excited when I heard my name,” Sundar said. "It's good to see that there are other people watching and seeing how I'm doing out there and working hard with heart and hustle."
The John Reid Memorial Award honours a Sabre in the tournament who illustrates the person and hockey player Reid was.
Previous winners were Levi Fesyk, David Saunders, Ethan Edwards, Noah Fayad, Ryan Cooper, Jake Warawa, Josh Perrott, Tyler Mrkonjic, Jake Mykitiuk, Jed Groenenboom, Josh Winquist, Ryan Harrison, Steve Wall, Blaine Bokenfohr and Nate Fleming.
Sundar, 14, tallied twice in the tournament, including the Teddy Bear Toss goal against the Kings, and added three assists.
In league play, Sundar is second on the Sabres in scoring with 13 goals and 27 points in 23 games.
“I thought I had a good tournament, but I had hoped to get more shots on net,” said the Grade 9 VJM student who played last season for the bantam AA St. Albert Blues.
ICE CHIPS: The Yale Hockey Academy Lions (6-0) of Abbotsford captured the tournament title by a 3-1 score against the Saints in the final and the third-place game was 8-2 for Delta Wild Academy Green (5-1), last year's champion, against Red Deer.
In the C final, Prairie Storm won 5-2 over the Okanagan Rockets (1-4).
The next league game for the Sabres is 10:45 a.m. Sunday against the Calgary Northstars (5-12-7) at Jarome Iginla Arena.