Xtreme travelling to Red Deer for Thanksgiving tournament
With its first month of games in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) now in the record books, the Airdrie Xtreme will be out on the tournament trail this weekend, as it will take part in the Red Deer Bantam AAA Thanksgiving Classic on Oct. 11 to 13.
“We are going to be using the tournament as a huge building block for the rest of this season,” Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer said. “We have focused a lot on our conditioning this week at practice, as we like to play an up-tempo game and you need to be in great shape in order to do that.”
“These tournaments are a great opportunity to work on our systems and our special teams play, as you don’t have to worry about any major consequences in the league standings,” he added.
The Xtreme will open up the tournament with a game against the Lethbridge Golden Hawks at 4 p.m. on Oct. 11. at the Red Deer Arena.
It will wrap up their round-robin slate with a pair of games at the Kinex Arena on Saturday, as its first game of the day will be a 9:15 a.m. clash against the Calgary Northstar Sabres before a 2:15 p.m. bout with the Red Deer Black Rebels.
The playoff game for the Xtreme will take place on Oct. 13, with its exact matchup being determined on its final placing in the Pool B standings.
“We have played Lethbridge and Red Deer already this season, and we know that we can compete with either one of those teams if we play our game,” Zimmer said. “I think what it boils down to at this age, at this level, is which group of kids shows up to play for us.”
“These guys are still finding their way as 13- and 14-year-old kids and dealing with those inconsistencies in their performances is just part of the territory, but I think we will be fine in this tournament,” he added.
The Xtreme head into the tournament in Red Deer after splitting its two-road games this past weekend in the AMBHL.
On Oct. 5 in Medicine Hat, the Xtreme turned in a dominant performance as they shutout the SEAC Tigers 6-0.
“I was really pleased with the effort that the guys had in that game,” Zimmer said. “It was the third game in a row that the guys did the things that we need to do in order to be successful.”
“They were relentless on the forecheck, they finished their hits, and they capitalized on their scoring chances in front of the net.”
The Xtreme’s second game of the weekend turned out to be one the team would like to forget, as it suffered a 7-3 loss to the Calgary Bisons on Oct. 6 in Calgary.
“We just didn’t show up for that game and we gave them (the Bisons) too much respect,” Zimmer said.
“They have a great program, but we went in there thinking that we were going to lose before the ref had even dropped the puck to start the game.”
“It was 1-1 after the first period, and we had a chance to win the game, but we just didn’t show up at all and we let the game get away from us.”
One of the key players for the Xtreme this weekend was goaltender Ben Laidlaw, as the 14 year old from Cochrane picked up his first career shutout on Oct. 5 as he made 19 saves against the SEAC Tigers.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you are a goalie to stay focused and mentally engaged when you are not getting a lot of work, which is what was happening against the Tigers,” Zimmer said.
“He did make a couple of big saves when he was challenged, and he got the start again on Sunday (Oct. 6) in Calgary, where I was impressed with how well he battled in the third period.”
Following its tournament in Red Deer, the Xtreme will resume its AMBHL schedule on Oct. 19, when it will play host to the Calgary Royals in a 7:15 p.m. contest at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie.
“We have a 2-5 record right now, but realistically, I think our record should be 5-2,” Zimmer said. “Other than our most recent game in Calgary, I have been pretty happy with our efforts on most nights, but we just haven’t had the results to show from it.”