Not even a non-playoff appearance as the defending Mac’s Cup champions could stop the St. Albert Nektar Raiders from continuing their winning ways in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
Only a few days after letting a playoff berth slip away in the waning moments of the last two games of pool play while going 2-1-1 at the 42nd annual Mac’s World Invitational in Calgary, the Raiders resumed their league schedule last weekend with road wins of 2-1 over the Red Deer Chiefs and 5-0 against the Calgary Flames.
The results strengthened the team’s first-place 20-1-3 record with eight games remaining before the playoffs.
Last year’s provincial finalists also have the north division pennant locked up for the second season in a row.
The second-best AMHL team is the Calgary Buffaloes (16-4-4) of the south division as the 2019 provincial champions and winners of the Mac’s Cup final Jan. 1.
Last month, the Raiders beat the Buffaloes twice in a seven-day span by identical 2-1 scores.
In the first game after the Mac’s, Carson Ironside stopped 32 shots as Ty Cheveldayoff, captain Mathieu Gautier and Ronin Pusch found the back of the net against Red Deer (11-10-3).
Ironside (9-0-1, 1.80 GAA) also faced 26 shots against the Flames while posting his second shutout and the sixth this season for the AMHL’s No. 1 defensive team (1.33 GAA).
Maddux Nollski’s second goal of the game was slotted on the power play and Breck McKinley chipped in with two assists.
Cheveldayoff, Pusch and affiliate defenceman Kaleb West also scored.
Pusch’s goal was his team-leading 11th.
The victory against the Flames (12-8-5) marked the 13th straight game with a point during the 12-0-1 run by the Raiders.
The next game is Sunday in Leduc against the Oil Kings (4-10-8) at 1:15 p.m.
Sabres going great
The St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres are firing on all cylinders on the eve of the John Reid Memorial Tournament.
The Sabres (19-5-1, 118 GF/68 GA) are ranked second overall in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey league after overpowering the Leduc Oil Kings 8-1 Saturday and the Sherwood Park Flyers 5-1 Monday.
The Red Deer Rebels (19-2-2, 98 GF/37 GA) are No. 1 by one point over the Sabres with two games in hand.
The Sabres and Red Deer are joined by the Calgary Flames (18-3), Calgary Bisons (17-6-2), Lloydminster Bobcats (12-4-6), SSAC Lions (11-5-5) and Leduc (12-11-1) as the AMBHL reps at the 42nd annual bantam AAA tournament.
The 16-team draw features four divisions of pool play to determine the A, B and C playoff brackets.
The Sabres play at Go Auto Arena on Jan. 16 against Balgonie (Sask.) Prairie Storm at 10:45 a.m. and the Los Angeles Jr. Kings at 8 p.m., which is also the Teddy Bear Toss game in support of the St. Albert Food Bank, and Jan. 17 against St. George’s Saints of Vancouver at 1:30 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to bring a teddy bear wrapped in a plastic bag to throw on the ice after the Sabres’ first goal against Los Angeles.
The tournament schedule is listed in Scoreboard on page 35 and at johnreidmemorial.com.
The last game for the Sabres before the Reid tournament is Sunday versus the Canadian Athletic Club (3-14-5) at 5 p.m. at Jarome Iginla Arena.
The Sabres are 9-1 on home ice after Adam Chin (9-2-1, 2.84 GAA) stared down 44 shots by the Flyers (10-10-4).
Carmelo Crandell, Johnny Ballos, Matthew Gomez, Evan Sundar and Jamie Visser scored.
Crandell’s goal was his 25th in 25 games and 40th point.
Crandell, the team captain, defenceman Ben Constantino and forward Jack Ketsa are the Sabres’ reps at the 30th annual AMBHL all-star game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Hunter Arena.
Head coach Steve Ewaskiw and his staff will run the north all-star bench.
The first game after the Christmas break for the Sabres featured two goals on the penalty kill in the first period and three on the power play in the second frame against Leduc.
Shots were 66-28 and Luke Roberts (10-3, 2.56 GAA), one of four returning Sabres on the roster, was between the pipes.
The St. Albert Merchants started off the new year with a loss against the last-place team in the east division of the Capital Junior B Hockey League.
The Strathcona Bruins (11-17-2) scored the winner with 31 seconds left in regulation time after netting the equalizer with 3:50 to go in Friday’s 4-3 decision at Jarome Iginla Arena.
The loss was the fourth in a row and the fifth in six games for the third-place Merchants (16-13) in the west division.
Nate Reinhart made his Merchants debut as the sixth player this season to tend the twine and the total includes forward Ryan Deets (one GA in 11 minutes in two games) as the team’s emergency puck stopper.
Reinhart stopped 37 shots as the Bruins led 1-0 after the first period and knotted the score at two with 1:56 left in the second.
Kiegan Miller and Josh Antunes struck on the power play in the middle frame while outshooting Strathcona 27-10 in the period.
Bryce Sturm made it 3-2 five minutes into the third.
The Merchants finished with 47 shots against netminder Cooper Kennedy (2-2, 3.94 GAA).
Strathcona proved Friday’s result wasn’t a fluke by defeating the Morinville Jets (10-18-1) 4-3 in a shootout Sunday at Landrex Arena.
Friday the Merchants and Spruce Grove Regals (3-23-2) hook up 7:45 p.m. at Grant Fuhr Arena.
Sunday’s home game against the Sherwood Park Knights (13-13-3) starts at 8 p.m.