Team Alberta has already experienced a wild ride in male hockey at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
It’s been a rollercoaster for the host group, with as many ups as downs with the tournament turning to elimination games on Wednesday.
They started the event off with a 4-3 overtime loss to Saskatchewan, after outplaying them for much of the contest.
In game 2, Alberta had a 5-1 advantage over Team Manitoba after 20 minutes but fell asleep at the switch and had to sweat out a 6-5 win.
The final pool game against B.C. Tuesday, Alberta needed a pair of goals in the final five minutes to win the game and pool B and also get a day off Tuesday.
Alberta head coach Bobby Fox said the adversity has helped galvanize the group and he hopes they are just starting to peak at the right time.
“We’re really lucky and fortunate to be in the spot we’re in. It’s a process. Every team is outstanding and have some special players, you can’t take anybody lightly. The fact we were able to battle through and get first, is positive for our team moving forward,” Fox said.
“We’ve been mentioning it a lot, it’s a cliche but it definitely applies to this team. You only fail if you fail to learn. I think you need these things, you create buy-in through adversity and through complacency.”
Despite scoring 13 goals in 10 games, Alberta has just three players, Craig Armstrong, Colton Dach and Kai Uchacz with multiple goals (2). First overall WHL Bantam Draft pick Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings has four points (1G, 3A) and Matt Savoie has four assists. Savoie is one of two players in the tournament applying to Hockey Canada for exceptional status (to play in the Canadian Hockey League a year early), along with Ontario’s Shane Wright.
Fox said that Savoie really elevated his game when Alberta trailed 4-3 heading into the third period against B.C., with first place in the pool on the line. Savoie had a nice rush and created the play that set up the game-winning goal.
“He was a catalyst in the third period. As coaches, you can walk in a dressing room and you can tell from body language and look into a players’ eyes and know holy smokes, I know what I’m going to get this period,” Fox said.
“He had a fire in his eyes before that third period and I knew something big was going to happen. He definitely came through.”
Alberta got the day off Tuesday to enjoy some family time, while the coaches will do some pre-scouting and film. Regardless of who they play Wednesday, Fox said from here on out his team will have to handle the big-time pressure.
” We’re an extremely skilled team. Sometimes those are hard to big together. They are all go-to guys on their club teams,” Fox said.
“They’re learning to play different roles and different tactically. They’re learning to play more of a team game.”
Alberta plays the winner of B.C. and P.E.I on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrium.
Through pool play, three players are tied for the tournament lead in points with 10, Ontario’s Brennan Othmann (5G, 5A), P.E.I. Jack Campbell (3G, 7A), Québec’s Joshua Roy (3G, 7A)… Liam Tereposky of Northwest Territories is one of the leading goalies with a 2.61 goals against average and .918 save percentage in four games. William Dyke of Newfoundland and Labrador has a 1.67 goals against average and .911 save percentage in three starts… Zach L’Heureux has seven goals to lead the way for Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador has eight assists to lead that category.