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U17 AAA Avalanche set to take on some of the league's best at provincial tournament

The Avalanche now move to provincials, April 4 to 7, where they will take on the Sherwood Park Squires, the St. Albert Raiders Flyers, host LJAC Techmation Oil Kings, and the Calgary Flames.
The 2023-2024 U17 AAA Airdrie Cannex Avalanche

The U17 AAA provincial championship will be decided this weekend in Leduc, and with the flameout of last year’s champion Okotoks Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, the Airdrie Cannex Avalanche are preparing to take their rivals' place atop the mountain. 

After finishing the regular season in second place in the south division with 22 wins, six losses, an overtime loss, and five ties, the Avalanche swept aside the Calgary Bulls in two games during first round, and then bounced the Medicine Hat-based Southeast Athletic Club Tigers in three games to punch their ticket to provincials. 

The Avalanche now move to provincials, April 4 to 7, where they will take on the Sherwood Park Squires, the St. Albert Raiders Flyers, host LJAC Techmation Oil Kings, and the Calgary Flames, who finished in first place in the south division, 11 points up on the Avalanche. 

By nature of the tournament-style gameplay that the provincial championship utilizes, any team–no matter how high or low in the regular season standings–can win. 

Remarking on what it’ll take for his team to take advantage of chaos that can ensue in a provincial tournament, Avalanche head coach Dante Raposo said they will try to raise their game consistently and keep it there.

“I think the key is to just be your best…as often as possible,” Raposo explained. “Because one or two games can be a detriment, unlike in a series where you get a couple of chances…I think if we play the way we can we’re going to set ourselves up for a really good chance to make a run.” 

In order to make a run, the Avalanche will have to lean on a couple players that have been key to their recent success. 

Brandon Williams and Jaxson Hosegood have been the definition of a foundational goaltending tandem. Williams and Hosegood more or less split duties throughout the 34 games the Avalanche played in the regular season. 

Hosegood, who played in 14 games, finished with a personal record of 10-1-2, compiled a goals against average of 1.74 and a save percentage of 0.938. Hosegoods miniscule goals against average (GAA) was the second best in the league among qualified goalies, second only to the Calgary Flames' Sergio Davidson, who finished with a 1.59 GAA but registered 40 less saves than Hosegood in nearly as many starts. 

Williams, who appeared in net for the Avalanche in 21 games, tallied a 0.938 save percentage and a equally minuscule 1.74 GAA, and recorded a 12-5-3 record. Both Avalanche netminders finished first and second among all goalies in save percentage, and no goalie in the league played more minutes than the 1,235 that Williams totalled. 

Raposo admitted that a lot of the Avalanche’s success so far this season can be attributed to both goaltenders.

“I’d be lying if I told you we are where we are without either one of them,” he said. “[It’s] been nice to be able to just go into a rotation and both guys are probably number ones on every other team.We know what we’re getting and then the next day we can go with the other guy and we know that we [have] a chance to win, no matter who’s in net.”

The Avalanche’s goaltending prowess continued throughout their playoff run. In three games, Williams registered a 0.955 save percentage with a 1.23 GAA, both best among all goalies on playoff teams. 

As far as offense goes, the Avalanche have employed a score by committee approach. Five players recorded 20 or more points in the regular season and four players scored 10 or more goals. Leading the way offensively for the Avalanche was rookie Issac Riep, who led the team in both goals and assists. 

Riep collected 15 goals and 20 assists in 33 games. His coach noticed almost instantly that Riep’s work ethic and practise habits made him a special player. 

“I noticed it right away,” Raposo said. “He can play in any situation for us…You have to be lucky to be good and good to be lucky, and I think he’s getting into those opportunities and making the most of it.” 

Roster depth is another strength that the Avalanche have relied on this year. Instead of relying on one or two players to make plays and score, Raposo said he can roll lines one to four, and “trust them in any situation.” 

“Our identity is just non-stop,” Raposo added. “We set the pace, we play like we can. We’re dumping pucks and making it hard for teams to play against us.” 

Now the Avalanche will be put to the test against some of the best teams in the province. To be crowned champion, they’ll have to beat the best, and their journey starts on Thursday against the St. Albert Raiders Flyers.


Riley Stovka

About the Author: Riley Stovka

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