No matter which team won, the zone high school boy’s team handball final was a perfect way to prepare for the provincial Tier I championships.
“It was, we couldn’t ask for anything better,” agreed Lindsay Thurber Raiders head coach Yvonne Bauer following an entertaining 16-15 victory over the Notre Dame Cougars at LTCHS Wednesday.
The Raiders looked as if they would have an easy test, grabbing a 14-9 lead, but following a time out the Cougars stormed back to eventually take a 15-14 lead.
Raiders star Jarrett Zilinski scored his fourth goal of the game with just over a minute to play, then Jeremiah Huo notched what proved to be the winner with 30 seconds remaining.
“It was a great game,” said Cougars head coach Dale Henderson. “Both teams were great in spots and bad in others, but that’s the nature of the sport, there’s ups and downs.”
It was a defensive change by Bauer with five minutes remaining in the game that turned the tide in the Raiders favour and allowed them to shut down the Cougars offence.
“This group is the first I’ve been able to teach different styles of defence and that made a difference for sure,” she said.
“I started the man-to-man defence and it worked. I think if we didn’t change Notre Dame would have won. They have a strong team.”
“I thought our defence got us back in the game and even got us ahead, but their defence got us in the end. It’s tough because we’ve only been going for less than four weeks. We never saw that aggressive style of defence before.”
Bauer started the program in 2010 when the provincials were in Red Deer.
“We won bronze that first year with no experience and won bronze again last year,” she said. “We’ve been to the provincials every year.”
The Raiders have more experience than the Cougars, who are only in their second year.
“We have five players back,” said Bauer.
“We had all Grade 12s last year except for Keegan (MacDonald) who was our goalie,” said Henderson.
“This year Keegan moved out and has come a long way. Next year we have between eight and 11 players back.”
Zilinski and MacDonald were the key players for both teams.
“Both teams tried their best to keep them out of the play,” added Henderson.
Alister Mahood also had four goals for the Raiders while Matt Graham added three. Nic Walker had four goals and Adam Abraham three for the Cougars.
Both teams got outstanding goaltending with Al-Hasan Al-Sammarie in net for the Raiders and Roberto Mkumbukwa for the Cougars, who reached the final with a 22-11 victory over the Wetaskiwin Sabres.
MacDonald had six goals and Michael Ozga four for the Cougars and Simon Kelm five for the Sabres.
• The girl’s zone final, between the Raiders and Cougars, is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at LTCHS . . . The Tier I provincials are at Eastglen in Edmonton with the Tier II finals in Bentley. Both go April 24-26.