By GORDON ANDERSON
The Grande Peace Athletic Club AAA Midget Storm have solidified their holiday plans with a trip to Calgary for, hopefully, a solid week of hockey and holiday making.
Courtesy of their second-place position in the north division of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, the club was invited and accepted an invitation to the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament, set for Dec. 26 through to Jan. 1.
“Our manager, Crystal Watson, put the application in and (the selection committee) got back to her and said, ‘Yeah, you’re accepted’ and she told me,” Storm Head Coach Chris Schmidt said when asked how he found out.
The club found out they were chosen about two weeks ago, but held the secret until just recently.
The coach was asked what he thinks of the invitation and where said invite placed his team in the rank of Alberta AAA teams.
“It’s a snapshot of the first 10 games of the year, basically is what it is,” Schmidt said. “The selection committee deems you good enough to be part of that tournament and it’s a feather in the cap for the guys. They put their minds to it, that’s what they wanted to do. They wanted to qualify right from the get-go and they managed to accomplish it. Again, it’s a first step in a long year. Good for them.”
“It’s a huge thing (to be playing in the Mac’s), especially for a lot of the third year guys,” 17-year-old defenceman Austyn Hansen added. “It’s a huge exposure tournament for us. We were accepted last year but we didn’t end up going. We’re all excited to go (this year).”
As the Charles Spencer student mentioned, the team was invited to the tournament last year but declined the invitation.
Not the end goal
As much as Schmidt seems outwardly pleased his team is heading to the seven-day event, he knows this tourney isn’t the crowing glory. Sure, the team would love nothing more to win the event but that’s not the goal this season.
Not even close.
“It can’t be the crown jewel of the year,” Schmidt said. “The goal is the league, the playoffs in our league, and that’s kind of where we want to get to and do well. When you sit down and talk, as a team, about what you want to accomplish, the Mac’s isn’t it. We have to keep building because we’re not good enough, yet (to win the league). We need to keep getting better so we’re not getting beat out by the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (in the second round of the playoffs) like we did last year.”
Plenty of eyeballs
The tournament is also a chance for the teams involved to have Western Hockey League, NCAA and U Sport scouts in attendance. The AMHL is one of the better leagues in Canada and these players get plenty of time under the microscope.
This just means there is another opportunity for the players to show off their personal brand, when there are very few other holiday tournaments planned at this particular age level.
“The showcase in Red Deer is a good opportunity and it’s heavily scouted and the Mac’s is the same thing,” Schmidt said. “It’s not a whole lot of hockey going on at that time so it’s a big centre, big tournament but I don’t think they’re under seen, put it that way. There’s enough eyeballs on you that you’re not going unseen.”
The showcase tournament the coach referenced is in Red Deer this weekend. The Storm play the Lloydminster Bobcats on Saturday and the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday.
As long as the team comes out of the tournament healthy and ready to go for the back half of the AMHL regular season, the experience certainly won’t hurt.
“It will be a good experience, an opportunity to be in a big tournament they’ve heard off and followed when they were younger,” Schmidt said.
“Our group of guys has a chance,” Hansen added. “We have a strong club and I think we’ll do great and I’m a hell of an excited, real excited to go there.”