SUNDRE – With roughly a week remaining in the Central Alberta Hockey League’s tiering rounds, the U18 Huskies are eyeing a tier 3 spot, said the team’s head coach.
As of this past Friday, the Sundre Minor Hockey Association’s highest-level team had so far gone undefeated in four games against Red Deer, Olds, Caroline and Cochrane, said Jason Martyn.
“It’s going really well,” he said in response to being asked how the early season was shaping up.
“We got a few new players (and) a couple of players who haven’t played for a while come back,” he said, later adding there are also “a lot of return players from last year’s team. So, we’re sitting pretty well. We got a full group of kids.”
The coach said their aim is to finish the early season ranked in tier 3.
Over the past weekend, they played against the Rocky Mountain Athletic Association Renegades, a tier 2 team, as well as Blindman Valley, a higher-placed tier 3 squad, he said.
They first played on Friday night at the Sundre Arena against the former in what proved to be a challenging uphill battle that ended their early-season winning streak and also left a couple of players injured, he said.
“It was a pretty rough game,” he said, adding the Huskies were subsequently left with a short bench when they faced off the following day at the arena in Bentley against Blindman Valley, who went onto win that contest.
While the coach said, “the kids were still a little shell shocked from the night before,” he added that match-up nevertheless turned out to be a pretty “good game” that would have been much different if the Huskies had their full roster.
This coming weekend will be the final rounds of tiering with an anticipated break next weekend before regular league play begins. The Huskies are for now playing among a pool of 11 teams in CAHL’s tier 3 green, he said.
“But that’ll be shaken all down,” he said, adding there are usually about eight teams in their regular league division by the time tiering wraps up.
Recognizing that it was still early on in the season with regular league play yet to even get started, the coach said when asked what he considered to be the Huskies’ main strengths that the team has a strong offence.
“We have two very, very strong lines that can puck very well and find open ice,” he said. “They’re a strong, overall offensive team.”
And the squad’s goaltender – Byron Burwell, who is now playing his third year – is also proving to be an asset in the net, said Martyn.
“He’s improved his play this year,” the coach said.
As to whether Martyn anticipates areas with room for improvement that he intends to focus on during practices, he said, “We’re challenging the kids more with some in-depth drills and plays that we’re trying to get them to follow.”
In other words, he said the objective is to develop and enhance the team’s strategies and plays through more structured drills.
With the Huskies just starting to get warmed up, the coach said he looks forward to seeing how they perform this year.
“I’m just excited to see the season and see how these new kids do.”