Raiders strike silver at Mandi Schwartz tournament
Hockey: Rocky Mountain earns best ever finish at Western Canada showcase
Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017 06:00 am
The top team in Alberta was minutes away from a top showing in Western Canada.
The Rocky Mountain Raiders earned a franchise best silver medal at the Mandi Schwartz Memorial Tournament after seeing a late lead slip to the champion Lloydminster Steelers in the gold medal game Sunday in Wilcox, Sask.
“Best Raiders finish ever and we were right there,” said Raiders head coach Paul Pozzi. “We lost it more so than they won it, we kind of did it to ourselves. That happens and you take all the positives, the girls played really well, had a good week and we were definitely one of the best teams there.”
The competition is considered the biggest female hockey tournament in Western Canada featuring top teams from the four western provinces. Hosted by Notre Dame, the competition memorializes former Hound Mandi Schwartz who tragically passed away from cancer in 2011.
“It’s probably the top recruiting tournament in Western Canada,” the coach added. “It’s attended by a number of schools in Canadian U-sports and NCAA. It’s really good exposure for players looking to play college hockey.
“It’s a tough tournament to do well because you have to do well in all five of your games.”
That’s no easy feat.
Rocky Mountain was pooled in perhaps the toughest group in the 16-team tourney alongside the first-place team from Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Stars, and Manitoba, the Winnipeg Avros, and the sport-school Northern Alberta.
The Raiders opened with a 2-2 tie versus the Stars in a rematch of the 2016 Mac’s Midget Tournament as Okotokian Breanne Trotter and Kara Kondrat found the back of the net.
They then dispatched Northern Alberta 5-2 paced by a two-goal effort from rookie forward Mallory Dyer.
Rocky Mountain closed out pool play on top in a 3-0 shutout over the Avros as Trotter, Athena Hauck and Chloe Puddifant lit the lamp. The Raiders edged league rival Red Deer 2-1 in the semifinal on the strength of Puddifant and Trotter tallies. They looked to be in control of the gold-medal game with a late lead through Fry and Emma Borbandy only to have the Steelers strike for two late powerplay markers the latter with 82 seconds on the clock through Kelsey Hall to steal the result.
“I don’t think we ran out of gas, I think we maybe got a bit lazy and undisciplined and it cost us,” Pozzi said. “We’re going to take some important lessons from this tournament and look at how and why it slipped away and we’re going to use it to be better heading into the Mac’s.”
The final four playoff round featured teams exclusively from the Alberta Female Hockey League, a feather in the cap of the provincial Midget AAA loop and a statement in advance of another top tournament on the horizon.
“It shows really well that we’re definitely one of the top leagues,” Pozzi said. “Even the sports schools didn’t fare so well on the weekend. I think the tide has turned now where AAA hockey is definitely more dominant than the sport schools.”
The defending Mac’s champion Rocky Mountain finds out its schedule and opposition at the tournament press-conference on Dec. 13.
“I really like our chances in the Mac’s,” Pozzi said. “We’re looking to repeat and I think we’ve got a great chance to that. It’s a long week, but I think we will be there at the end.”
The Raiders, the AFHL’s top seed, close out their pre-Mac’s schedule on Dec. 16 versus the Calgary Fire.