Mac's midget tourney a holiday classic
By Scott Connell, The StarPhoenix
December 24, 2009
Like blasting along Highway 7 toward Calgary in a whiteout, the Saskatoon Contacts are heading west blind.
The Mac's tournament, the biggest showcase of midget hockey, starts Saturday in Calgary. The Contacts are in a pool of teams that are new to them.
"We're going in there blind and sometimes that's just as good," said Contacts coach Marc Chartier. "We just play our game. We've got some skilled guys. We go out there and try and outwork the opposition. They've got to want it more than the team across from us.
"They don't know much about us either, so they're going to be surprised. They'll have to adjust to us, too."
The Contacts are scheduled to play the North Island Silvertips of B.C. and three teams from Alberta -- the Red Deer Rebels, St. Albert Sports Raiders and UFA Bisons.
Chartier views it as a dry run for the playoffs.
"You get an opportunity to see provinces and see how you stack up to them," he said. "It's good that way. The boys are going to have get used to going every day, like in the playoffs. It's about who can out-endure who."
Added Contacts captain Jonathan Lashyn, who is doing his second tour of duty at the tournament: "There's good hockey at Mac's, and lots of it. It's good to see where we stand against other top teams in the country."
For Logan Sproule of the Saskatoon Blazers, the amped up level of play is what sets Mac's apart.
"Everyone's is playing so much harder," said Sproule, who is going to his second tournament. "There's scouts at the games, so everyone tries to bring their best."
Blazers coach Rene Lemire, who has been to Mac's in the past as scout, expects special teams to be prominent.
"We'll definitely try to get some pre-scouting on their power play and penalty killing," Lemire said. "At these types of tournaments, you don't know what kind of reffing you're going to get, so I'm sure there'll be a lot of penalties for and against."
The Blazers head to Calgary on a four-game win streak. Lemire hopes to keep the good vibrations going.
"You don't want to go in there and be a pushover," Lemire said. "We've won four in a row. The kids are seeing that it's fun, but it's a lot of hard work. We don't want to go over to Mac's and go zero and four."
Joining the Saskatoon contingent in Calgary are the Yorkton Harvest, Beardy's Blackhawks, Prince Albert Mintos and the Tisdale Trojans.
An international flavour returns to Mac's, with the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and the Shattuck St. Mary's Sabres from Minnesota looking to make noise north of the border.
STARS CHALLENGE FOR GIRLS' TITLE
The Saskatoon Stars are entered in the Mac's tournament along with 14 other top girls teams from Western Canada.
The Stars are in a pool with the Weyburn Wings, Calgary Bruins, Edmonton Thunder and Vancouver Fusion. The Stars' first game is Saturday against Edmonton.
The Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats are two-time defending champions.
The championship game will be shown on Shaw TV on New Year's Day.
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