Raiders shoot for repeat as provincial hosts

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The table is set for a repeat bid in familiar surroundings.

The Rocky Mountain Raiders go for consecutive provincial banners this weekend when they play host to the Hockey Alberta Midget AAA Female Championships at the Scott Seaman Sports Rink in Davisburg.

“As far as the hockey is concerned,” said Raiders head coach Paul Pozzi, “it’s at that point in the season now when you go into a short-term competition or tournament it’s whoever can outlast the other team is what it really comes down to.

“Grind and stick with it is really our motto.”

The four-team tournament is a round-robin format with each team playing each other once and the top two records moving on to the championship game.

The Raiders skate twice on opening day, March 17, at 11:45 a.m. and 8 p.m. and wrap up round-robin on March 18 at 10 a.m.

“The biggest thing is you want to make sure the girls have their rest,” the coach added. “You want to make sure they’re rested and ready. You want to make sure you’re prepared for a day like that.”

The condensed format only amplifies the importance of the first contest.

“You want to set the tone and that’s the way you start it off,” the coach added. “You start it off really hard, that first game is going to be a tough one it always is, everyone is coming in fresh.

“We also have a target on our back, we’re the defending champs and people are looking to knock us off fairly quickly and that’s our motive as well.”

Rocky Mountain, the second seed in the Alberta Female Hockey League Midget AAA ranks, have been a tough nut to crack at the Scott Seaman Sports Rink.

The Raiders posted a record of 10-4-1 at their barn in 2016-17.

“It means a lot,” said Raiders captain Kennedy Brown, from Okotoks. “That’s even more incentive to try to win some games here at home and that’s what we’re striving for going in.”

The Raiders, defending provincial and regional champions as well as Esso Cup bronze medallists, will likely need to get through the top-seed St. Albert Sabres to reclaim their banner.

“There is a lot of positivity in the room right now,” Pozzi said. “Even though we’ve struggled against St. Albert all year we feel we can certainly beat them. We have played well against them, there were at least two against them that could have went the other way.

“If we get a few bounces, work hard and shutdown their big line things should hopefully turn our way.”

Rocky Mountain went winless against St. Albert in the regular season though two of the losses were of the one goal variety.

“They’re a strong team and they capitalize on the mistakes that we make,” Brown added. “Going into games like that we just have to be confident in our abilities and be able to play simple hockey and play the way we always do.

“Then we stand a good chance.”

The other two representatives, the Calgary Fire and Red Deer Chiefs, played their way in after mini playoff series victories last weekend.

The provincial weekend culminates in Championship Sunday. The bronze-medal tilt goes at 9 a.m. followed by the gold medal game at 12:45 p.m.

Off the ice, the players are treated to the provincial banquet on March 18 at 5 p.m. at the Okotoks Elks Club featuring guest speaker Meaghan Mikkelson, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with Team Canada’s powerhouse national women’s squad.

The St. Albert native has strong ties to the community as a long-time contributor with the Okotoks Female Hockey Development program.

For the full rundown on the Midget AAA provincials go to midgetfemaleaaa.haprovincials.ca

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