The Central Alberta Amazons are off to a red hot start this year, after making it all the way to the league final last season. (Facebook photo)

Central Alberta Amazons riding wave of success

The Central Alberta Amazons are on a wild ride this season.

Playing in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League, the Amazons, who play out of the Penhold Multiplex have only lost once this year and have a league high 12 wins.

They are far and away the best defensive team in the nine-team league, with only 13 goals allowed in 13 games.

The next lowest goal total is 22 by the Cochrane Chaos, with every other team allowing at least 38 goals.

Nisa Bartlett of Red Deer is responsible for the incredible puck-stopping numbers, with a goals against average of 1.00 this season and a 0.961 save percentage to lead the league. She also has a league-high five shutouts.

“Our defensive side of the puck is second to none,” said Amazons first-year head coach Randy Burt.

The team is made up of players from all across Western Canada and as far as Ontario, most of whom are in the area for school and some for work.

Burt said they have just seven returning players of 20 from last season’s south division championship squad.

“It’s a pretty transient league. I have some girls that are in school and some that are working.

“Typically the ones that start with us stay in the area will carry through. Pretty high percentage of new players this year,” he said.

He noted the opportunity with the Amazons is a little less commitment than what it would be with other leagues like U Sport or Alberta College Athletic Conference.

“Typically what brings them to the area is school of some sort. If they don’t want to put the time in to play college hockey. We’re a little less of a commitment as far as practice time and stuff like that,” he said.

“Gives them an opportunity to play a high-calibre of hockey without that commitment. Just gives them a nice avenue to play in.”

Carly Umbach and Tara Dickson lead the way offensively for Central Alberta. Umbach has six goals and four assists while Dickson has four goals and five helpers.

Scoring, according to Burt is the biggest hurdle his team must jump if they want to have a championship season.

“Primarily, if we have a weak point that we need to focus on, it’s scoring.

“It’s starting to come, we did well last weekend against Calgary, ended up with five goals which is a high for us. Typically we’re a 1-0 team,” he said.

“I’ve got so many girls that are goal scorers that don’t realize they’re goal scorers, it’s unbelievable. You watch them in practice when they’re relaxed and it’s bar down all day long and moves beyond belief… it’s just convincing them that they’re that good.”

The Amazons are no strangers to winning either, making it all the way to the league final last year, but eventually falling in four games to the Sherwood Park Steele. Burt says the objective is crystal clear this year.

“We had a taste of it last year, and I think it stuck so it’s something we want to accomplish with how we’ve started the season,” Burt said.

The Amazons next home game is Dec. 2 at the Penhold Multiplex with puck drop set at 4:15 p.m. against the Fort Saskatchewan Fury.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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