The Airdrie Xtreme will be in Okotoks this weekend as they continue their quest for the organization's first provincial banner since 2018.
The U15 AAA boys' hockey team continued their strong 2022-23 season last weekend by beating the Red Deer Rebels two games to nothing in their best-of-three playoff series. Airdrie beat the Rebels 6-3 and 6-4 on March 16 and 18 to secure the two-game sweep.
As a result of those wins, the Xtreme are one of five teams that will be competing at the Alberta Elite Hockey League's (AEHL) U15 AAA provincial championships, which run from Thursday to Sunday in Okotoks.
The Xtreme will be considered a favourite to win the provincial gold, after dominating the AEHL south division with a 33-1 regular-season record. Once in the playoffs, the Airdrie team continued their winning ways, easily ousting the Calgary Royals and the Red Deer Rebels from provincial contention.
For at least seven members of the U15 squad, this weekend's games will present an opportunity to make amends for last year, when the Xtreme finished the same provincial tournament in fourth place, after a similarly dominant campaign in the lead-up.
One of those players is this year's captain, 15-year-old forward and team scoring leader Riley Boychuk. He said the second-year players remember well what happened last season, and will do everything they can to see a more successful outing this time around.
"We went into provincials [in 2022] with high expectations and we did fall short of that," Boychuk said. "We put our position in another team’s hands, and that didn’t work out for us.
"The players who are returning, we know that feeling. We second-years have to learn from that. We can’t put [our fate] in anyone else’s hands to make it through. We can’t take a game off, because in that playoff structure, it’s the top two teams [after four games] who go through to the finals."
The Xtreme will start their provincial schedule at the Pason Centennial Arena with a game on Thursday at 4 p.m. against the Calgary Bisons. The following day, they'll hit the ice twice – first against the Knights of Columbus Squires at 8:30 a.m., and then against the St. Albert Sabres at 3:45 p.m.
St. Albert was the other dominant AEHL team this season, finishing atop the north division conference with a similar record as Airdrie, and should prove a formidable opponent.
On Saturday morning, the Xtreme will face the host Okotoks Oilers to round out pool play at 11 a.m. Their results will determine if they play for a medal – either bronze or gold – on Sunday.
For scores, schedules, and other information, visit u15aaa.ca