AC Avalanche continue early winning streak
Each year means a new crop of players for the AC Avalanche Midget AAA team.
For the coaches and the players, going on a winning streak in the first month of the 2012-2013 season was a nice surprise.
After dropping its first two games, the Avalanche has recorded five straight wins at home and is currently in second place in the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League (AMMHL).
“We knew we’d be competitive, but there isn’t much diversity among the league,” said Avalanche Head Coach Terry Sydoryk. “What we’ve emphasized to the kids is that they have to play to their strengths. We have a very fast team and the league overall is skilled. We often end up with kids that think skill will win out. We’ve been aggressive on our forecheck and our offensive attack. It’s started to pay off.”
For some teams, building chemistry with a entirely new squad may be a challenge, but it’s something that has come naturally for the Avalanche. Seven of the players, including Jayden Gordon, Chad Harrison, Kyle Antochow and captain Troy VanTetering, were on last year’s Airdrie Xtreme roster. The rest played together in the Cochrane and Airdrie AA programs or in tiered hockey.
“Those are the players that have been challenged the most to get up to the speed,” Sydoryk said. “Physically, the kids change so much at this age and the speed of the game changes as a result of that.”
Despite having one of the smaller teams in the AMML in terms of stature, speed has been winning the Avalanche games, along with consistent scoring from its forwards. Harrison and VanTetering have emerged as the team’s leading scorers. Harrison has two goals and nine assists in seven games while VanTetering is tied for first in league scoring with four goals and 11 assists.
One player the team will be missing this season is Marshall Burr.
Burr’s final season with the Xtreme was cut short in the spring by a shoulder injury that required surgery. After eight months of recovery, Burr joined the Avalanche at the beginning of the season, but played only one regular-season game and one tournament before injuring his other shoulder, ending another season for the 15-year-old defenceman.
With the streak it’s on, Sydoryk said the next step for the team is advancing its systems and maintaining the drive and motivation that has taken it to the top of the AMMHL’s South division.
Last season, the Avalanche found itself in a similar position, 5-1 after the first month of the season, only to hit a losing skid and struggle through the rest of the year. It’s something Sydoryk wants to avoid this season.
“We want to continue to evolve the team aspect,” he said. “This is when we start getting into a more sophisticated game and you start to work more on what you’re doing with the puck rather than what you’re doing without it.”