BOYLE – They didn’t exactly have the home ice advantage they were hoping for, but it apparently wasn’t needed as the Boyle Blazers U15 team outscored opponents 30-6 on their way to a gold medal in a tournament they hosted on both Athabasca and Plamondon ice surfaces.
The four-team hockey tournament took place Jan. 21-23, with the puck dropping at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex Friday evening for one game, and the remainder of the competition taking place at the Plamondon Arena on Saturday and Sunday.
Captain Brody Maloney said it was a great tournament and everyone had a lot of fun, but the gold medal was a perfect way to end the weekend.
“We played like a team this weekend and we had a lot of fun,” he said after returning home Sunday, and the fact they had to play in other arenas didn’t affect the team all that much. “It’s not that bad, it’s OK. The boards aren’t as bouncy in Boyle.”
The Blazers’ home ice at the Millview Recreational Complex is currently unavailable, as a series of unfortunate events over the last several months closed the facility temporarily. A flooding incident in October led to the need for asbestos remediation. While that work was being done, an ice plant condenser tower failed, and the village is still waiting for the parts needed to maintain the ice as normal. Midweek, the parts were in South Dakota and making their way north, with expected delivery this week.
As such, the Blazers have made the move to the Plamondon Arena, the home of their North Eastern Alberta Hockey League (NEAHL) Tier 5 rivals, the Plamondon Cougars.
“It’s hard not to play at your home, but Athabasca and Plamondon have been really accommodating and helping us out with that stuff. Plamondon has been very welcoming to us for sure,” said coach Dan Maloney.
The Cougars didn’t take part in the tournament, but teams from St. Albert, Strathcona and Lloydminster made the trip to test their mettle against the Blazers, with little success.
The Blazers took on the Strathcona Warriors at the Multiplex Friday, putting on a clinic of cross-ice passes and rushes to the net, on their way to a 7-0 victory. Goaltender Karsten Porter turned away 30 shots to secure the shutout.
Sam Delorme, Seth Ergang and Marah Tkachuk scored three goals within four minutes of each other in the first to get the tilt off to a blazing start, and they didn’t look back from there.
Maloney scored two for the Blazers in the second period, while Ethan Auger netted one of his own, then Maloney earned his hat trick in the third, and with the taste of victory on their tongues, they hit the highway for Plamondon the next morning to take on the St. Albert Knights.
One goal from the Knights in the second couldn’t hold a candle to the Blazers’ five. Singles from Brauc Bourque, Delorme and Maloney, along with a two-goal game from Harley Irving brought home the 5-1 win for the Blazers.
Later Saturday afternoon, a game against the Lloydminster Blazers, doubled as a league game to make up for a previously missed contest between the two. The two Blazers teams occupy the basement of the Tier 5 standings, but it didn’t show as the Boyle squad sniped goal after goal to earn the 12-2 win for the perfect tournament record and a chance at the gold medal.
Boyle built up a hefty lead before their opponents managed to get one past Porter but coasted through on the strength of hat tricks from Leighton Grant and Brayden Wellon, along with two from Maloney, and single goals from Ergang, Irving, Tkachuk and Bourque.
“That was a fun game,” said the younger Maloney. “I pulled my groin that game, but wanted to get on the ice so bad, it was so much fun.”
The two Blazers teams met again Sunday afternoon in the gold medal match, with Boyle finishing off the perfect weekend with the 6-4 win over Lloydminster, but it wasn’t quite the joyride they had against the team the day before.
“We were actually up 4-1 and then they came back and tied it at 4-4, then that next goal by Brody Szmyrko, he rushed to the net and got that goal, and when it got to be 6-4, I don’t think it was easy for Lloyd to try to come back,” said coach Maloney.
Szmyrko was joined on the scoreboard by Wellon, Maloney, Auger and Bourque added two more.
A particular highlight of the tournament, and the season, for both Maloneys was being able to see newcomer Ethan Auger come into his own on the ice, scoring several goals throughout the weekend, and bringing a presence to the dressing room that keeps everyone smiling. Coach Maloney also gave props to team manager Hannah Grant, who took on organizing the tournament, in unexpectedly challenging circumstances.
“It was quite a good weekend of hockey,” said Brody, who pointed out they’ll hit the road next weekend to take on two Lloydminster teams.
The gold medal will also provide some momentum for the team as it heads into the last nine games of the season with its eyes on a playoff berth.
“It’s been up and down,” said coach Maloney. “But we actually beat some of the better teams in the league and we've been tying a few and losing a few, but you know what, we're not that far out to make the playoffs and we have a few games in hand, so if they play like they played all weekend, I think we might have a good chance to make the playoffs.”