- Category: Sports
“We’re not done yet.”
That was Wheatland Chiefs forward Chayse Hnatowich’s message after sweeping the Airdrie Lighting 2-0 in the South Central Alberta Hockey League best-of-three final.
The local double-A midget team wrapped up their third straight league title by grounding the Lightning 3-1 March 18 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
“This is a great feeling. They deserve everything they’ve worked for this year,” said Chiefs head coach Evan Barlow.
The framework for the league title began in the first period in Game 2 when, for the second straight game, the Lightning jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.
The Lightning were a bit of a surprise to come out of the North division and tried to wear down the Chiefs defensive core early by dumping the puck in and following it up with a suppressing forecheck.
One-goal leads don’t faze the high-octane Chiefs. Even without their captain Ryan Bell, who was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for colliding knee-on-knee with Jordan Hodzic, the Chiefs battled back.
Hnatowich launched a backhander from a sharp angle, as the rebound cascaded out to Riley Romashenko, who dished the puck into the open net at the 3:16 mark of the second frame.
Building off that momentum, Romashenko jammed a Lightning clearing attempt along the half-wall, created some space and sent a sweet feed over to Rob Butterwick at the side of the net for the easy tap-in.
In the first period, Brett LeGrandeur took a five-minute major for tripping, sending the Chiefs to a lengthy power play.
Typically a recipe for disaster, the Chiefs were unable to muster any goals. Then, with the Lightning on the five-minute power play for Bell’s major, the Chiefs delivered the dagger.
Brady Skiffington intercepted Lightning goaltender Justin Fedoruk’s breakout pass from behind the net and jammed it in on his second crack at it with 58 seconds remaining on the Bell infraction.
Two goals of support feels like overkill on insurance when Ty Tarvyd is in net. The Chiefs puck-stopper hasn’t lost a game all year, and slammed the door shut in the finals after allowing a puck to squeak past him in the first periods of each game.
“We have a lot of confidence in Tarvyd and he exudes when he is out there,” said Barlow. “As a tandem, we feel like both of our goalies are the best in the league when you look at the numbers. We can throw either one of them out there with the most confidence.”
The Lightning had a glimmer of hope with 8:31 remaining in the third when Isaac Benoit reached for a puck on the penalty kill and got called for tripping, sending Airdrie to the five-on-three for 1:30, but the Chiefs penalty kill unit snuffed them out.
“Killing big penalties really brings us together and help get us going. The five minute kill and the ones at the end of the game were huge for us,” said Romashenko.
Following the final horn, the players celebrated capturing their second banner in the past two weeks, and were joined by family and friends on the ice.
Game 1 followed a similar script March 17 at the Strathmore Family Centre in front of a strong crowd featuring several alumni players. The Lightning scored first, but the Chiefs powered back, led by Hnatowich’s three-point performance.
First he helped set up Lucas Muenchrath to even the score just prior to the first intermission, and then found the back of the net after gaining the zone with a full head of steam five minutes into the second.
The degree of difficulty on Romashenko’s marker in the third was off the charts. Taking a pass from Hnatowich behind the net in his skates, in one motion, he kicked the puck up to his stick, made a quick move to the right and shovelled in a backhand, all while being crosschecked to the ground.
Butterwick supplied a power play goal halfway through the third from Benoit and Romashenko to sink the Lightning.
In doing so, the Chiefs advance to provincials for the third straight year, as they search for the first provincial title in the organization’s 25-year history.
Provincials kick off March 30 in Okotoks.
- Category: Sports
The Rocky Mountain Raiders fell one game short of completing the double championship season.
After they captured the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament title back on New Year’s Day, the St. Albert Slash shut the Raiders out 2-0 March 19 during the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League provincials last weekend at the Scott Seaman Sports Rink in Okotoks.
“St. Albert was the top team in the league all year. We went 0-6 against them this season, but were in both games during provincials,” said Raiders head coach Paul Pozzi.
The Raiders outshot the Slash 36-20, but ran into a hot goalie in Camryn Drever.
“We threw everything including the kitchen sink at her, but it wasn’t enough that night,” said Pozzi.
The Raiders opened provincials with a 3-0 blanking of the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs March 17.
That evening, they followed it up by crushing the Calgary Fire 8-1. Strathmore product Hailey McCallum picked up an assist on the game-winning goal at the 7:54 mark of the first period.
In their final round robin game, the Raiders trimmed the Slash 3-2 March 18.
McCallum finished the season with eight goals and 28 points in 32 games. Langdon product Emma Borbandy registered one goal and 10 assists in 32 games.
“Hailey has lots of skill, [she’s] a great skater and possesses an excellent shot. Hopefully we see her in a college uniform somewhere next year. Emma is one of our more solid defensemen. She is well rounded and we are looking forward to having her back next year,” said Pozzi. “They are two really great kids.”
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore Skating Club held their annual Fire on Ice figure skating gala March 17 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Figure skaters aged between five and 22 got the chance to show off the programs and routines they have been working on all season to their families and friends.
It was the first gala event since their Christmas show.
Skaters went out for individual skates, pair skates and group skates, with no one performing more than twice.
The club welcomed guest skater Jane Gray to the ice. Gray was born in Calgary and raised in Canmore; she has been figure skating for more than 16 years. She is a four-time Alberta senior women’s champion and recently placed 14th during the senior Canadian Nationals in Ottawa.
During the Calgary Winter Invitational March 10-12, Club skater Tamzyn Musselman placed second in the U13 division at the STAR 4 level.
Rylee Wilson captured bronze for an interpretive skate during the North STARSkate Invitational in St. Albert March 3-5. This is her 13th year of skating and she competes at a STAR 9 level.
The club will be competing in the STARSkate Championships this weekend in Airdrie. The Chinook Open takes place the following weekend in Lethbridge.
- Category: Sports
The Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons three-peated as Chrysler division champs, finishing off the Calgary Buffaloes in a dramatic Game 4 of the Alberta Midget Hockey League semifinals.
With 24.6 seconds remaining in regulation, the Buffs were dreaming of a Game 5 on home ice, when Bisons head coach Sandy Henry called a time out.
The Buffs just iced the puck, with the faceoff coming to the right of Taylor Gauthier.
“The play was to win the faceoff, move the puck around the wall and get something on net,” said Strathmore product Cole Clayton.
After the faceoff, the puck worked its way behind the net, where Jackson Salt was jamming away, trying to free it up. From there, the puck squirted to the left half-wall, and Zach Huber and Peyton Krebs freed it, with valuable seconds bleeding from the clock. Krebs hit Clayton on the blue line with less than 10 seconds remaining.
“I don’t know how he thought to wait and fake around him. If that was me, I probably would have shot it into the guy’s shin pads,” said Bisons captain Brett Trentham.
Similar to Tyson Terretta’s Game 3 double-overtime winner, Clayton patiently waited for the blitzing shot blocker to slide past him before shooting on net.
Along its path to the twine, Salt made contact with it, striking it down and into the back of the net with 5.5 seconds remaining.
The packed Strathmore Family Centre exploded as the Bisons bench went nuts.
“You could feel waves of sound at that point. It was crazy in there tonight,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry.
It only made sense that those two teams were destined for overtime.
Each game was a one-goal game, with great play making and even greater goaltending.
Gauthier was the 10th pick by the Prince George Cougars during the 2016 WHL draft, but he was outplayed by the AJHL Canmore Eagles prospect, Ben Laidlaw.
Time after time, he found a way to come up with huge saves against the league’s top offence, frustrating them at crucial moments. He finished the series with a 1.50 goals against average and a .961 save percentage, recorded 146 saves (36.5 saves per game) and out-duelled one of the top young goaltending prospects in Western Canada.
“If you put too much pressure on yourself, you’re probably going to lose,” said Laidlaw. “I just needed to focus on stopping the next one, then the next one and then the next one. It also helps when you’re on a team like this. I’m pretty confident in this group and that they are going to come out on top, even when we are down with five seconds left.”
Laidlaw was the main reason the Buffs went 0-for-15 on the power play in the series, including 50 seconds of a five-on-three power play in the second period.
“The guy is so composed. I’ve never seen that in a guy. There’s no rattle, but big battle. It’s tough to find guys that have both like that. He’s a special, special kid,” said Henry.
The Bisons were 3-0 in overtime this playoffs heading into the Game 4 extra frames, and 48 hours removed from another thrilling double-overtime victory at the Cardel Rec South arena. It followed a similar blueprint to the Bisons Game 2 win in the quarterfinals against the Calgary Flames.
In that game, Tyson Scott tied it with 15.6 seconds remaining, before Brandon Machado won it with a tap in during overtime.
Machado had the magic touch once again, this time in double overtime, thanks to the James Norris Memorial trophy-worthy vision from Clayton.
Just over nine minutes into the second overtime, the Buffs were looking to break out of their zone. That’s when Clayton pinched and kept the puck in.
Finding himself on a 2-on-1 with Machado, he drove to the net.
“I was standing on the bench, yelling at Machado to back up; I thought he was too close for Cole to get the puck over to him,” said Henry.
Skating in as tight as he could, Clayton feathered the puck underneath the stick of the kneeling defenseman over to Machado.
“Their guy wasn’t laying down, so there was a tiny triangle underneath the stick that I could fit the puck through. I think the goalie was getting ready for me to shoot because I was in so tight. That’s probably why he couldn’t slide over in time,” said Clayton.
“You can’t teach that stuff, it’s something they’re wired with,” said Henry, about Clayton’s play-making ability in the clutch.
He hit Machado, who delivered his second tap-in overtime winner of the playoffs, as the Strathmore Family Centre went into bedlam.
“He’s a great player and has great patience. He made a great pass; after that, everything turned into a blur,” said Machado.
The players stormed the ice as parents and fans smacked the glass, some even climbing the glass, hanging over the top in celebration.
On the other half of the bracket, the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings swept the top-ranked Sherwood Park J. Ennis Kings in the league semis.
Winner advances to the Pacific championships in B.C. for a chance to head to the Telus Cup.
- Category: Sports
It took nearly a month to crown the U19B Zone 2 ringette champion, but the Strathmore Ice finally took home the title March 19 at their home rink.
After dropping the first game of the best-of-three final back in February, the Ice stormed back into the series by clipping the AC Thunder 5-3 March 11 in Cochrane.
Short three players, the Ice managed to level the series thanks to Maddy Wheeler, an affiliated player from the U16A team, who scored four times in Game 2.
With the provincial playoffs and the never-ending battle for ice time throwing a wrench into the schedule earlier in the month, the teams resumed action March 19 for the decisive Game 3 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Led by their captain Darcie Weir, the Ice terminated the Thunder 6-4. Weir netted a pair, while singles came from Natalie Wilson, Emily Torgrimson, Becky Driver and Brooklyn Reinhart.
“We had a very short bench in Game 3, but we played hard with a lot of heart, giving us a chance to win. We also received great goaltending from Erin Reynolds in Game 2 and 3,” said Ice manager Darlene Reynolds.
The Ice advanced to provincials, which take place this weekend (24-26) in Lacombe. The 16-team tournament will be divided into two pools to determine the provincial champion.
- Category: Sports
After winning the B qualifier earlier in the month in Didsbury, the Robertson rink advanced and participated in the Southern Alberta playoffs in Coaldale.
The local rink, comprised of Jayla Robertson, Sydnie Molnar, Micayla Kooistra and Sheldynn Molnar, aged 13-15, took on the Korker rink from Lethbridge in the opener March 17 and lost 4-3.
Robertson’s crew needed a comeback to slide past the Kiist rink from the North Hill Curling Club from Calgary March 18.
The momentum didn’t transfer over to the evening, when they lost to another team from the North Hill Curling Club, Kobylnyk’s squad, 12-1.
“We were thrilled just to be a part of the play-downs. We didn’t go in with any big expectations, I’m glad we were able to compete and have a good time,” said team organizer Mike Molnar.
Robertson’s crew will be moving up into the juvenile division next year, as they look to continue the same success. His squad would like to thank the Strathmore and District Curling Club and Rob Damen for all their help this season.
- Category: Sports
Last series, the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons penalty killers snuffed out the Calgary Buffaloes power play all 15 times.
In Game 1 of the Alberta Midget Hockey League finals, the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings capitalized twice on a five-minute power play, to clip the Bisons 3-1 March 19 at the Strathmore Family Centre.
Rarely does defenseman Cayde Augustine join the rush. When Tyson Scott and Blake Wells broke out, he saw an opening to contribute offensively. Scott hit him with a touch pass in the slot, but Easton Hesse was there to turn him away.
At the end of the play, Augustine had his feet swept out from underneath him as his 6-foot-1 frame went barreling into the goaltender. He was dealt a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct. The game misconduct meant that he would be suspended for Game 2 in Leduc.
“We watched the video during the intermission and [Cayde] kind of put himself in a tough spot. He tried to go to the backhand instead of just shooting it, which got him a little tangled up and made it difficult for him to stop,” said Bisons assistant coach Paden Grant.
The Oil Kings power play was operating at a 14.3 per cent clip this postseason before Augustine’s major.
“We used a time out to go over things and make a couple changes, knowing it was a five minute power play and not just a two minute minor,” said Oil Kings head coach Taylor Harnett. “That power play was a big reason why we are walking out of here with a win today.”
Tied 1-1 in the second, Tyler Schendel hit the post from the right faceoff dot. The puck worked its way around to him again, and picked the corner over Ben Laidlaw’s right shoulder with 1:38 remaining on the major penalty.
“We made a couple mental mistakes on that penalty kill that we weren’t making in the Buffs series. We seemed a little bit mentally tired; the mind was going but the hands couldn’t catch up,” said Grant.
Nearly one minute later, Tyson Terretta’s clearing attempt appeared to hit Peyton Krebs in the back, keeping the puck in the zone as Oil Kings affiliated player Dillon Hamaliuk pounced on it, finding the back of the net with 21 seconds left on the major and at the 19:13 mark of the second period.
The Bisons hadn’t seen the Oil Kings since October, when they swept the season series following a 5-1 and 3-2 victory.
Since the Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament break, the Oil Kings transformed into a different team.
“Their effort level was really high tonight. They have a disciplined forecheck and plugged us up the middle of the ice. We are going to have to go back to the video tapes and see how we can adjust to their style of game,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry.
They wrapped up the season winning four of their last five, before knocking out the division’s top two seeds in the playoffs and are currently riding a five-game winning streak.
“We are a different team from the one the Bisons played in October. It was a matter of having our players buy into the philosophy. It took a while for us to create our identity and realize the potential we have in this locker room,” said Harnett.
As anticipated, the Bisons got off to a slow start, following their epic four-game series with the Calgary Buffaloes that featured two heart-stopping double-overtime games. The Family Centre was just as packed, but wasn’t able to reproduce the same energy that powered the Bisons to their Game 4 win.
The Oil Kings opened the game by coming down the ice and popping one past Laidlaw. Jack Sander sent the initial shot on net. Laidlaw tried corralling the rebound with three Oil Kings jamming away at the loose puck, before Jaden York wedged it home at the 4:57 mark of the first period.
The Bisons got on board when Airdrie product Brandon Machado intercepted a blue line pass from Cole Lewis to Colby Wolter on the power play. Machado was off to the races, beating Hesse’s low blocker for his fourth of the postseason at the 6:40 mark of the second stanza.
The line of Machado, captain Brett Trentham and Tarun Fizer were the most threatening of any Bison line in Game 1.
Playing in his third game back, it appeared the chemistry and game speed returned to Fizer, who was one of the Bisons’ top point producers before going down to an injury in January.
“I definitely felt better tonight than I did my first game back. I wasn’t sucking wind after each shift tonight,” said Fizer. “I felt like we got a lot of good chances out there tonight, we just need to put a couple in and we should be fine against this team.”
The Bisons finished 20 points higher in the standings than the Oil Kings this season.
The Herd was buzzing in the third period, but couldn’t get one to fall, as Hesse was forced to make over half his saves in the third period (13).
Game 2 of the finals went March 22 at Sobeys Arena in Leduc. Game 3 returns to the Strathmore Family Centre March 24 at 8 p.m. If necessary, Game 4 would take place March 26 in Leduc, with Game 5 returning to Strathmore March 27 (8 p.m.).
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore High School Spartans senior girls basketball team made waves in Medicine Hat during the Alberta Schools Athletic Association 3A provincials over the weekend.
After capturing their second South Central Zone championship, the Spartans headed to provincials ranked 10th in the province and looking to make good after their winless trip back in the 2013-2014 season.
“This was an absolutely positive experience for the girls. It was always a goal of ours to make provincials and do a little bit of damage, and we were able to accomplish that,” said Spartans head coach Dion Galandy.
The Spartans knocked off the seventh-ranked Strathcona Christian Academy Eagles 62-58 March 16, led by Brianna Kennedy’s barrage of threes and trips to the free throw line.
Ffyona Gibson-Smith chipped in 11 points, while Sydney Boyd racked up nine points and Tatum Wathen supplied six points.
Taking on the host and No. 2 ranked Monsignor McCoy High School Colts in their second game, the Spartans fell 64-46 March 17, knocking them out of title contention.
Kaylin Larson led the way with 16 points and Allie Davidson was good for 11 points.
“I finally shot the ball pretty well all weekend compared to our past few games,” said Larson. “It was our goal at the beginning of the year to make it to provincials, so it was cool to see all of our hard work (and) extra shots in the gym pay off in the end.”
The following day, the Spartans ride at provincials came to an end when the No. 6 ranked Beaumont Composite High School Bandits stuffed them 64-49. Kennedy and Larson both poured in tournament highs with 22 and 20 points, respectively.
“The first half in the Beaumont game was the one half in the past two weeks that wasn’t great, we only scored 10 points,” said Galandy.
“Hopefully we bring the experience from this weekend into next season with the returning group of girls and we start the year on another strong high level.”
- Category: Sports
The Wheatland Cowboys and Cowgirls Rodeo Association (WCCRA) hosted finals on March 18 at the Lausen indoor arena, with $10,000 in prizes and cash handed out.
Throughout the past five months, 56 young cowboys and cowgirls between the ages of two and 18 have been competing in a combined 12 events, split between three age groups.
Events include barrel racing, thread the needle, goat tying and untying, pole bending, steer daubing, live and dummy breakaway, dummy and live roping, dummy and live team roping.
“The (kids) get a bond with their horse younger,” said Brandy Schiffner, treasurer of the WCCRA. “Horses are large animals so working with them gives them a lot of confidence which then carries through to other aspects in their lives.”
According to the WCCRA, spending time with the association provides youth the opportunity to learn compassion, responsibility, confidence and sportsmanship. The kids learn to look after and listen to their horses, and to communicate in their own way with their horses to be able to compete in the rodeo events.
The young rodeo stars have been meeting every second Sunday since October to compete and to practice rodeo events. Each youth rodeo is treated like a regular rodeo where the kids with the best scores for each event win cash.
Throughout the year, the kids have been accumulating points and times from each event. The overall winners from each event were recognized at a banquet on March 19 where they won buckles, horse blankets and halters.
Winners from each event and age group include:
Barrel racing: 8 and under A - Rhys Brosz; 8 and under B - Taylor Hall; 9-12 A - Lexi Kathol; 9-12 B - Taya Sharpley; 13 and over A - Paige Sibbet; 13 and over B - Jaelyn Bec.
Pole Bending: 8 and under A - Maysa Schiffner; 8 and under B - Taylor Hall; 9-12 A - Alice Tanner; 9-12 B - Kazziah McFadden; 13 and over A - Jaymie Conrad; 13 and over B - Sadie Henn.
Thread the Needle: 8 and under A - Maysa Schiffner; 8 and under B - Taylor Hall.
Goat Untying: 8 and under A - Rhys Brosz; 8 and under B - Taylor Hall.
Goat Tying: 9-12 A - Lexi Kathol; 9-12 B - Taya Sharpley; 13 and over A - Riley Sibbet; 13 and over B - Orrin Henn.
Steer Daubing: 9-12 A - Avery Aleman; 9-12 B - Taya Sharpley; 13 and over A - Riley Sibbet; 13 and over B - Sadie Henn.
Breakaway roping (dummy): Taya Sharpley.
Breakaway roping (live): Orrin Henn.
Team Roping Header (dummy): Taya Sharpley.
Team Roping Header (live): Paige Sibbet.
Team Roping Heeler (live): Riley Sibbet.
High Point Winners: 8 and under A - Maysa Schiffner; 8 and under B - Taylor Hall; 9-12 A - Lexi Kathol; 9-12 B - Taya Sharpley; 13 and over A - Riley Sibbet; 13 and over B - Jaelyn Bec.
“The finals are what they work all year for,” said Tara Kathol, secretary of the WCCRA.
The youth rodeo goes in winter, giving the kids an outlet to ride while not competing with the main rodeo season in which many parents compete.
“This is such a fun club where you are allowed to learn and grow in the sport so that when you go to a competition, you have already learned the steps on how to get there,” said Schiffner.
“It preserves our heritage. We are teaching the kids something many of their parents are part of,” added Crystal Stevens, vice-president with the WCCRA. “I think it’s a great competitive sport for our youth, and is a good training ground and opportunity for them to get better at what they do.”
- Category: Sports
Most teams would be happy enough knowing they are hosting a provincial championship and will participate as the host team. But not the Strathmore Midget A Storm.
The Storm’s season turned around once their provincial status cemented when they were given the rights to host provincials back in December.
Doug Raycroft’s crew turned things around, and swept the top-ranked Stettler Lightning in the Central Alberta Hockey League final.
“We didn’t want to be just another host team in provincials,” said Raycroft. “Stettler won the provincials last year and they had a lot of players back on the team this year, but we kept growing each game as a team and took it to them. Nobody in our locker room was surprised by the result.”
The Storm polished off the Lightning 2-1 March 17 and wrapped up the series with a 4-2 victory March 18.
All that leads up to the provincial championships at the Strathmore Family Centre this weekend. The action kicked off March 23. The Storm are in action March 24 at 10:30 a.m. They wrap up round-robin play March 25 at 1 p.m. on the blue rink. Playoffs go March 26 with the first semifinal at 8 a.m. The championship is slated for 4 p.m.
Raycroft is confident in his team’s ability to move the puck, and hoping it will transfer into success this weekend.
“We like to play faster than most teams, use our good breakout systems (get) around on the other team,” said Raycroft.
Jayden Hendricks led the Storm with 11 goals and 17 assists in 14 games. Ethan Raycroft went 3-1-3 between the pipes with a 2.86 goals against average. His partner Devon Swan backstopped the Storm to a 5-1-1 record with a 1.43 record, as the Storm finished the regular season third, going 8-2-4.
One of the main events that took place away from the rink was the Spirit of Hockey Day. The Storm coordinated with elementary schools from the town and invited them out to the arena to meet the players and coaches, and were presented with gifts. It was another way of minor hockey getting involved with the community.
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore High School Spartans senior girls basketball squad cake-walked their way to the school’s second 3A South Central Zone championship at Highwood High School last weekend.
“We went into every game hoping to play our best and we managed to come out with the win, and that’s all that matters,” said Ffyona Gibson-Smith.
The Spartans dumped the Bert Church High School Chargers 66-58 in the final in front of a loud, travelling group of fans from Strathmore.
“It was a pretty tight game early, they jumped out to an early lead and we battled our way back and led by 10 at halftime,” said Spartans head coach Dion Galandy. “We maintained a 10 to 12 point lead the rest of the way. All the pressure was on Bert Church. I just kept reminding them, ‘hurry, but don’t rush.’ We kept working hard and played with intensity.”
For the Spartans, it’s the school’s first 3A zone championship since the 2013-2014 season.
In the semis, the Spartans sank the Springbank High School Phoenix 55-25.
The Spartans were rewarded with a home game to open zones, as they dumped the Bow Valley Bobcats 60-46 at Strathmore High School.
The Spartans entered the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association provincials last ranked as an honorable mention – an underdog, if you will.
The tourney kicked off March 16.
Last time Galandy took a crew to provincials, they were knocked out of contention in the quarterfinals. His message this time around was simple: “We have nothing to lose. The pressure is on everyone else, which works in our favour. We are going to go in relaxed, play our games, because you never know what might happen.”
According to Gibson-Smith, the goal was to make it to provincials.
“Now that we have made it, our goal is to go out, play hard and see what we can make out of it,” said Le May. “At the end of the day, it’s about playing hard and doing the best we can.”
Entering provincials ranked 10th, the Spartans took on the No. 7 ranked Strathcona Christian Academy Eagles March 16. If they won their opening game, they then battled the No. 2 ranked Monsignor McCoy High School Colts March 17.
Spartan boys miss out
On the guys side, The Canmore High School Crusaders dumped the Spartans in the opener 77-56, but a late three-pointer from Jackson Howatt sunk the Spartans provincial hopes for good.
Playing at home with two provincial berths up for grabs, the Spartans were 30 seconds away from the final.
Rebounding from their opening round loss to the Crusaders, the Spartans eliminated the No. 10 ranked Bert Church High School Chargers 77-69 on March 10.
The Spartans opened up the game with the three ball in the second half, with big shots. Mackenzie Bain knocked down four triples, finishing with 17 points, and John Le May poured in one triple, to finish with 23 points. Caleb Funk finished his high school career strong, recording 17 points in the consolation quarterfinals.
Funk was also a beast down low and brought the Spartans within one, 85-84, with less than a 30 seconds remaining against the Crusaders in the consolation semifinals.
Needing to foul, the Spartans caught a lucky break as the Crusaders clanked both of their free throws. After grabbing the rebound, the Spartans fumbled the ball up the court, evaporating valuable seconds from the clock that they could have used to get a cleaner look at the buzzer.
“That’s the way these things go sometimes,” said Spartans head coach Matt Laslo. “Sometimes they don’t go our way. It was a great season and we saved our best basketball for zones and that’s all I could have asked from our guys.”
Funk dumped in 15 points, Le May supplied 32 and Mackenzie Bain added 12 in the loss.
The Brooks Composite High School Buffalos (No. 4) and the George McDougall High School Mustangs (No. 3) clinched the two provincial berths.
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore Silver Sharks Swim Club is waist deep in another successful season, highlighted by three swimmers’ efforts reaching the provincial championships, with an eye on the national pool.
Jessica Mantik, Madison Laycraft and Elle Sauve are set for the Swim Alberta Spring Championships, running March 17 to 19 in Edmonton.
The Sharks are halfway through their season, which kicked off in October and ends in July after another provincial meet.
“These three swimmers are very dedicated and work very hard,” said Sharks head coach Jen Mertz. “They all have a great shot at advancing to the western meet and maybe even nationals.”
Laycraft, 15, is the longest tenured swimmer out of the three, competing with the Sharks since she was six years old.
A sprinter, Laycraft’s best discipline is the backstroke, but she is continuing to explore and work on the three other strokes.
Mantik is in her third season of competition with the Sharks and her fourth overall. Also a strong sprinter, Mantik will be competing in all four disciplines in Edmonton.
“She has made leaps and bounds of improvements since she joined our program,” said Mertz. “Nobody would be shocked if she turned in some winning time this weekend. Both Madison and Jessica have put in a lot of work outside of the pool [with] dryland training as they try and pull off some national qualifying times.”
The Edmonton swim meet isn’t like minor hockey provincials. Advancing to westerns and nationals all depends on qualifying times. With time standards for each age group and race length, the time of a swimmer’s race determines whether or not he or she advances to the next level. Times in the athlete’s heats still matter, as they advance within the competition, earning points towards medals and ribbons.
Sauve, 12, has leaned on her athletic prowess to propel her in the pool. Away from the pool, Sauve plays basketball, ringette and baseball; she’s open to any sport.
“She is a really strong swimmer,” said Mertz. “Her strong arms and legs really help her excel at the butterfly and that’s directly related to her athletic ability from all the different sports she plays.”
During the Southern Alberta Provincials Feb. 25-26 at the Repsol Sport Centre in Calgary, Sauve placed higher than any Shark, when she finished sixth in the 50-metre butterfly, with a time of 33.37 seconds.
- Category: Sports
The first three games of the Alberta Midget Hockey League semifinals between the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons and the Calgary Buffaloes have represented the pinnacle of playoff hockey.
The two teams were ranked first and second in the league with the Buffs edging the Bisons by one point.
The series also features the top two offences and defences going at each other in what has been a grudge match thus far.
It should be no surprise to anyone the way the first three games have gone. The series has delivered on all its promises to be a tightly-skilled affair.
To say that goals have been hard to come by would be an understatement.
The Bisons needed two friendly bounces to reach overtime in Game 3 March 14 at the Cardel Rec South arena.
Playing in double overtime, Tyson Terretta, who scored one goal in 34 regular season games, out-waited a diving shot blocker, to pipe home the winner at the 12:58 mark, to put the Bisons in the driver’s seat, leading the best-of-five series 2-1.
“My first option was to pass dee-to-dee, but that wasn’t available,” said Terretta. “My next option was to put it on net, but there was a guy there to block the shot, so I just held it for a second; a lane opened up and I let her go.”
The Bisons needed a pair of fortuitous bounces just to reach overtime.
First, Cayde Augustine launched a shot from the blue line that ricocheted off Buffs defenseman Cayden Shmyr’s foot and in. Later in the third, Jackson Salt, who had a goal waved off in the second period, had a Liam Belcourt shot bounce off his backside and go in.
Overtime was two inches away from not happening in the first place.
Tyson Scott, who scored a goal with 15 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the quarterfinals to force overtime, was rewarded with a penalty shot with 1:46 remaining in regulation.
Coming in, he tried to go top-bunk on Gauthier, but his shot rifled off the crossbar and into the protective netting.
The Bisons also wouldn’t have made it to overtime if it wasn’t for the brilliant play by Ben Laidlaw between the pipes. He recorded a season-high 52 saves in the marathon.
“As a staff, we are just trying to stabilize the emotions. There is a lot of highs and lows out in these games, we have to keep them level so they can go out and compete,” said Bisons head coach Sandy Henry. “But wow, are these games fun right now.”
Returning to the lineup were forwards Tarun Fizer and Tyler Petrie. Fizer has been out for a significant time with an upper-body injury and Petrie has missed the entire playoff stretch with a lower-body injury.
“They changed the whole dynamic of our lineup. I think they looked like they fit in right off the bat,” said Bisons assistant coach Mike Langen.
Game 2 took place March 12 at the Strathmore Family Centre, where it wasn’t necessarily a must win for the Bisons, but it was the closest thing to it, playing in the best-of-five series.
Despite the larger ice surface giving players more time with the puck to make plays, the game remained scoreless into the late stages of the third period.
Peyton Krebs was called for a questionable penalty while going into the corner, trying to win a battle for the puck.
The Bisons penalty kill unit killed off the minor, highlighted by a Kaden Hanas headfirst diving shot block at the top of the zone.
Sensing the desperation, Zach Huber dove for a puck in the neutral zone, sending Peyton Krebs in alone on his former Western Canada Challenge Cup teammate Taylor Gauthier.
Krebs pulled out the Mighty Ducks triple-deke, finishing on the backhand, over a sprawled out Gauthier.
The 1-0 lead stood thanks to the great saves by Laidlaw, who made 28 of them to earn the shutout.
The Buffs took Game 1 on March 10 by capitalizing on a pair of odd man rushes in the first period.
Strathmore product Cole Clayton was able to roof one on the power play from Krebs and Salt in the second period, but that’s as close as they would get.
Game 4 went March 16 at the Strathmore Family Centre, as the Bisons looked to finish off the Buffs (result not available as of press time).
If necessary, Game 5 is set for March 18 at the Cardel Rec South Arena, where the winner will take on the Leduc Chrysler Oil Kings for the league championship.
- Category: Sports
The Strathmore High School took a few minutes before tipoff of the South Central Zone 3A basketball championships to recognize their graduating class.
The Spartans senior girls squad’s zone championships took place in High River, but they opened the tourney with one final home game, as they took on the Bow Valley High School Bobcats.
Prior to the game, a speech prepared by head coach Dion Galandy and assistant Leslie Larson was read, as the girls were presented with framed photos, reflecting their time with the Spartans.
Words such as focused, positivity, determination, coachability and talented, were used to describe their time together.
It was an emotional moment for power forward Tatum Wathen, who began to tear up after the game at just the thought of graduating the basketball program.
“It’s really sad, I don’t want the season to be over,” said Wathen. “It was really nice of them to honour us like that and bring closure to our career.”
Wathen had a great season on the glass for the Spartans, crashing the boards on every opportunity; she was one of the top rebounders.
Next year, she plans on attending Mount Royal University (MRU), where she will begin working on her bachelor of communications with a major in public relations. Helping the transition to university will be her roommate and fellow grad Ffyona Gibson-Smith, who will enter the education program.
Gibson-Smith was one of the more aggressive drivers on the Spartans. Whenever the threes weren’t falling, she would take the ball in transition, carving her way to the tin for an easy bucket.
Pacey Strangling Wolf will also be attending MRU and will study criminal justice.
“We were a pretty close-knit group,” said Strangling Wolf. “Nobody got left out and we all had the same goal of working hard and wanting to win. This was a nice way to end our high school career.”
None of the three think they will play for the Cougars, but if they choose to team up, they would make quite the formidable intramural squad.
Brianna Kennedy only spent one year with the Spartans after moving from Athabasca. She was the Spartans dead-red shooter from downtown and hopes her hoop dreams aren’t over yet.
“It’s tough, I want to keep playing basketball, but I also want to go to the [University of Calgary] to become a doctor,” said Kennedy. “I have some time still, I will try and figure it out.”
The Spartans rode off into the sunset with a 60-46 win in their final game on home turf.
The senior boys program also recognized their graduating players before getting their zone tournament underway.
The group of graduating athletes has succeeded in several sports at SHS; playing football, volleyball, basketball and running cross-country.
Head coach Matt Laslo will have his hands full trying to replace seven seniors next season.
Presented with a framed picture of some of their highlights, Mackenzie Bain, Caleb Funk, Jonathan Le May, Connor McBean, J.J. Pelly, Isaiah Simwamu and Isaac Wegner will all be moving on next year.
“The seniors were huge factors down the stretch and we needed them to be this weekend,” said Laslo. “It’s really cool to have a group that has played together for three years that you can rely on in a big game and just leave them out there.”
One of the grads, Bain, has been a spot-up shooter for the Spartans, drilling big threes when called upon. He was thrilled to have his high school career end at the place where it all began.
“Having zones here has probably been the highlight for me,” said Bain. “The fans are always great here and I’m just so glad to end my career at home in these big games.”
Bain is still sorting out his path for next season, but has been in contact with a few post-secondary schools in B.C. and will take general sciences until he figures things out.
Le May has been one of the most reliable scorers on the roster. He can either break out a variety of moves, spinning, backing defenders down in the paint, or stepping out to splash a three.
“It meant a lot to me and the other guys to be recognized like that,” said Le May. “We have been going to school for a while now together, it was touching to have our school honour us like that.”
Le May will take the next two years and embark on an LDS mission, spreading the word of his religion around the world, with hopes of returning one day, picking up basketball in the college ranks.
The Spartans were eliminated from zones in a thrilling semifinal game against the Canmore Collegiate High School Crusaders, losing 85-84.
- Category: Sports
The top U16B ringette talent took over the Strathmore Family Centre last weekend for the provincial championships.
Receiving an automatic bid as hosts, the results didn’t go too well for the local Ice squad.
“It was a tough weekend. Our girls played hard, but we went up against the Top 11 teams from the province,” said Ice head coach Dean Hansen. “We got better as the tournament went on, but we couldn’t buy a goal in the end.”
Beaumont downed the Ice 6-1 March 10 in the opener, followed by the Fort McMurray Fusion crushing the Ice 9-2 that afternoon.
Taking on the Bowview Ambush March 11, the Ice were blanked 7-0.
“When you play the best of the best, there’s nothing you can do but learn from it,” said Hansen. “I thought as the tournament went along, we were picking up on the other team’s plays and we stepped it up each time.”
Later that afternoon, the Ice played the Northwest D12 squad hard, but got clipped 4-1.
Despite out-shooting the Bowview Elite 43-41, the Ice were shut out in the final game of the tournament, 1-0.
“What I always liked to see from this team, was that no matter the outcome, our girls always left the locker room with a smile on their face,” said Hansen. “We wish we could have played better, but we still had a great year and this was a great team.”
- Category: Sports
After a dominating regular season, the Wheatland Chiefs hit a bit of adversity in their South Central Hockey League playoffs, before reverting back to their world-beating ways in the south division final.
The local double-A midget team exacted some revenge on the Lethbridge Hurricanes, piping them 5-0 March 12 at Medicine Hat Arena to capture their second-straight south division title.
Earlier in the tournament, after a sizzling hot start by crushing the Foothills Bisons 5-1 (March 9) and destroying the Okotoks Oilers Green 11-2 (March 10), they took their foot off the gas in the third period against the Hurricanes, resulting in a 3-3 tie (March 11).
“We got complacent up 3-1 in the second,” said Chiefs assistant coach Matt Gass. “Even though we outshot the Hurricanes by 28, we didn’t give it our best effort closing out the game.”
The tie knocked the Chiefs out of the top seed heading into the elimination round. Instead of a rematch with the Foothills Bisons, they were forced to play the Medicine Hat Hounds in the semis.
The Hounds finished the regular season 12 points behind the Chiefs in second, and were one of two teams to defeat them this season.
Teams were tied 2-2 after the second period on goals from Rylan Longmuir and A.J. Kusu.
Wacy Sandum scored 17 seconds into the third frame from Kelton Travis and Ryan Bell, but a late slashing penalty to Chayse Hnatowich opened the door for the Hounds one last time.
With 37 seconds left in regulation, Maverick Cox tied the game from Cody Riehl and Martiz Watz.
“During the intermission, we just told our guys to stay focused,” said Gass. “We knew we were beating them all game and that they got lucky with a penalty at the end. We just needed to keep battling and our hard work was going to pay off.”
Robert Butterwick sent the Chiefs into the finals on a feed from Riley Romashenko 2:47 into the extra frame.
After seeing their season flash before their eyes, the Chiefs entered the south division finals on a mission, in a rematch against the Hurricanes.
The league’s regular season top point-getter, Isaac Benoit, scored the winner 58 seconds into the first period from Clouston.
Kelton Travis netted an unassisted marker less than two minutes later, and Benoit closed out the frame with his second of the period from Butterwick and Romashenko.
Lucas Muenchrath sniped a short-handed marker midway through the second period from Sandum, and Longmuir put the Hurricanes to bed in the third from Clouston and Travis.
Ty Tarvyd was spectacular in net, making 28 saves for the shutout.
Following the celebration, Chiefs captain Bell was presented with the championship banner, but respectfully and superstitiously declined to grab it for a photo, realizing the win was only step one of three along the way.
“I was surprised by their reaction to winning it,” said Chiefs head coach Evan Barlow. “They took it upon themselves to have the mentality that this was just a step towards an ultimate goal. It was pretty neat to see that from kids at that age.”
Now the Chiefs shift their focus to the Airdrie Lightning for the SCHAL crown and the right to head to provincials.
Michael DuBois scored in overtime as the Lighting edged the Okotoks Oilers Black 4-3 March 12 at the Can Pak Arena 1.
The Lightning finished fifth in the north division, with a 14-16-6 record.
“Airdrie is playing strong right now,” said Gass. “We haven’t seen them since the start of the season, but, from what I hear, they are a big, physical team and we are going to have to attack them with our speed.”
Game 1 of the best-of-three series goes March 17 at the Strathmore Family Centre. Game 2 is set for March 18 in Airdrie, and if necessary, Game 3 would go March 19 back in Strathmore.
The Chiefs skimmed the Lightning 4-3 in Strathmore back on Dec. 11 in the only meeting between the two teams.
Benoit led the Chiefs with seven goals and a pair of assists over the weekend. Butterwick finished with eight points and Hnatowich recorded six points.
Tarvyd won all three of his starts, posting a .940 save percentage and a 1.60 goals-against average. Riley Stovka helped out, going 1-0-1, with a .890 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against.
The local double-A peewee Braves struggled during their playoff tournament in Olds over the weekend.
The Braves dropped the opener to the Red Deer Motors 5-2 March 10 at the Olds and District Sports Complex.
Things didn’t get any better from there. They lost their next two games to the Bow Valley Timberwolves 8-1 (March 10) and fell 9-1 later that afternoon to the host Olds Grizzlys.
In their final game of the season, Philip Raycroft scored with 8:15 remaining in the third to tie the Airdrie Lighting White 3-3 March 11.
Raycroft led the Braves with three goals. Tate Yule sniped a goal and two assists, while Nolan Mahussier tied for the team lead in points with three assists.
The bantam Warriors will not be defending their south division title this season.
They went winless in Okotoks, losing their last game of the season 6-2 March 11 to the Medicine Hat Hounds.
They opened the tournament with a 9-5 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes (March 9), followed by a 3-1 loss to the host Okotoks Oilers (March 10).
The Warriors lost a barnburner March 11 to the Taber Golden Suns 10-8.
Mitch Tessemaker led the Warriors with four goals and four assists, Adam Kirkpatrick supplied six points, and Nolan Bailey and Trey Gillis tied for third on the team with four points.