No one would have been surprised had the Hunting Hills Lightning gone winless at the provincial high school boy’s team handball championships.
After all last Wednesday — an exhibition game against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders — was the first time they played the game.
But the Lightning have come a long way in a short time and although they won’t be playing for a championship in the Tier I division they won’t go home empty handed either after posting a 1-2 record in pool play Friday.
The Lightning beat Father Mercredi of Fort McMurray 19-11 while losing 32-13 to the Harry Ainlay Titans of Edmonton and 18-16 to the Queen Elizabeth Knights, also of Edmonton.
“There’s no words to express how happy and proud I am of the boys,” said Lightning head coach Dave Cormier. “We’ve had one game to go with several practices, which is not the same as playing.
“But there has been a real progression in their learning. They’re like sponges. They watched the provincial U18 and U21 teams play Thursday and they sucked it all in. It’s been awesome.”
Cormier, who isn’t on the Hunting Hills staff, learned the game in Quebec and played “longer than I want to remember.”
He has 14 players on his roster, with close to half of them able to return next season.
“It was a challenge to get the kids out because it’s the time of year when we’re up against rugby, soccer and football conditioning, but the kids who came out loved it . . . it’s a lot of fun. In fact several other kids watched us and I heard them talking and they said they should have come out. So I can see it growing.”
The toughest aspect of the game is on defence.
“You can work on it in practice, but it’s not the same as being out there. There’s a lot to learn and most kids like the offensive side where they’re handling the ball and shooting. Plus it’s tough for the goalie as well.”
Cormier is hoping to put together a team earlier next year and is talking about attending camps where players can work on their skills.
“The sport is fairly technical and you need the experience and the knowledge to continue to grow.”
Cormier would like to see Hunting Hills put together a girls’ team next year and even possible see a league in Central Alberta.
The Lightning finished third in their pool and will meet Ross Sheppard of Edmonton in a consolation game today at 8 a.m. at LTCHS. The LTCHS Raiders also placed third in their pool and clash with Father Mercredi at 8 a.m. at RDC. The winner meet at 3:30 p.m. at LTCHS.
The Raiders beat Ross Sheppard 23-18, but lost 24-14 to Bev Facey of Sherwood Park and 15-13 to St. Thomas Aquinas of Spruce Grove.
Harry Ainlay, 3-0, clashes with St. Thomas, 1-1-1, in A-side semifinal action at 11:15 a.m. while Bev Facey, 3-0, meets Queen E, 2-1, at 1 p.m. The bronze medal game goes at 7:15 p.m. and the final at 8:30 p.m. All games are at LTCHS.
The LTCHS girls finished second in their pool and meet 2-0 Harry Ainlay in semifinal play at 10:30 a.m.
The Raiders beat Ross Sheppard 15-13 and lost 9-8 to Edmonton Eastglen.
The other semifinal sees Eastglen, 2-0, taking on Salisbury, 1-1, at 9:15 a.m. The bronze medal contest is at 4:45 p.m. and the final at 6 p.m. All games are at LTCHS.
In tier II action, the Bentley Aces reached the semifinals in both divisions.
The Aces beat the Clearwater Academy of Calgary 10-6 and Blessed Sacrement of Wainwright 11-3 in their pool and will meet Mayerthorpe, 1-1, at 9:15 a.m. Central High of Sedgewick downed Mayerthorpe 12-8 and Calgary Academy 14-3 to win their pool and will clash with Clearwater at 10:30 a.m.
The bronze medal match is at 4:45 p.m. and the final at 6 p.m.
On the boys’ side, the Aces tied Clearwater 19-19 and downed Our Lady of The Snows from Canmore 18-16 to finish second and will meet Mallaig at 2:15 p.m. Clearwater, 1-0-1, faces Central High, 1-1, at 3:30 p.m. the bronze medal contest is at 7:15 p.m. and the final at 8:30 p.m.
All tier II games are at RDC.