Contacts itch to face live competition again
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
April 19, 2012
Saskatoon Contacts' goaltender Mike Shields figures to play a pivotal role for the Contacts when they hit the ice for their opening game against the Red Deer Rebels at the Telus Cup national midget AAA hockey championship, scheduled for Leduc, Alta., on Monday.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix , The StarPhoenix
Monday can't come soon enough for the Saskatoon Contacts.
By the time they hit the ice for their opening contest at the Telus Cup, the national midget AAA championship, it will have been 22 days since the Contacts played their last game.
Since knocking off the Southwest Cougars 5-1 in the Western Regional midget AAA hockey championship April 1, the Contacts have had to resort to practising against each other.
"We've really been waiting for it for the last three weeks," said captain Bryn MacNab.
"We're getting antsy. The battles on the ice are getting pretty intense.
"We can't wait to get back into a game, especially at nationals against some of the best competition out there."
The Contacts will continue their on-ice workouts today and Friday before leaving for Leduc, Alta., Sunday morning.
They open the Telus Cup against the Red Deer Rebels, kicking off the tourney at 12: 30 p.m. Monday, and play each day until Friday in the round-robin format.
The top four of six teams qualify for the semifinals next Saturday with the bronze-and gold-medal games held the following day.
Although the Contacts haven't faced off against any of the teams in the tournament this year, head coach Marc Chartier is confident his players will do a better job of dictating the play early, which will force the opposition to make adjustments.
In the first game of the Western Regional tournament, Chartier admitted his players were "spooked" as they lined up against the Winnipeg Wild.
The Wild - backed by Saskatoon Blades prospect Alex Moodie - won 41 of 44 regular season games, while allowing just 82 goals against.
The Contacts quickly fell behind 3-0, but battled back to earn a tie. They would win their next three contests to earn a berth in the national championship for the first time since winning the whole thing in 2005.
"How hard you're going to compete is the No. 1 thing," he said. "They've got to be hungry. They know what's coming up here."
The Contacts were pushed to the limit in their openinground best-of-five Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League series against the crosstown-rival Blazers, but won their next two series against the Moose Jaw Generals and Prince Albert Mintos in four games.
"The best thing I can tell you is the best preparation is going through our own league," said Chartier. "Every night you've got to go hard."
The first two series were high-scoring affairs, but the final saw the Contacts score just nine times in nine games while allowing only four goals against.
As a result, leading scorer Rourke Chartier - the 15th overall selection in last year's WHL bantam draft by the Kelowna Rockets - was held to a single assist.
Despite the lack of production against the Mintos, the coach's son recorded 13 points, finishing in a threeway tie for the team lead with Kolten Olynek and Dawson Leedahl.
He insists he's not concerned with his point totals, especially since the Contacts have been very stingy defensively under goalie Mack Shields.
"He's been one of the best in the league," said Rourke Chartier of Shields, who's started all 13 playoff games and all four games in the Western Regional - where he allowed five goals.
"We know we might just have to put one in."
Added MacNab: "We've been in a lot of different games. Good teams find a way to win. Guys have stepped up when we've needed them to step up."
That hard-working attitude has been the mantra of the team all season. And even though the last few weeks have been a bit monotonous, that mindset hasn't changed.
"Through all this practising, they've been really focused and working really hard," said Chartier. "It's really hard to ask them to that, especially when you're practising all the time.
"But what you see on the ice (in games) is what you get during practice."
TELUS CUP: THE CONTENDERS
LEDUC OIL KINGS (HOST)
After winning their Alberta Minor Hockey League division in the regular season with a 24-7-3 record, the Oil Kings bowed out in the semifinal to the St. Albert Raiders. Leduc features defenceman Machlin Pichonsky, who played two games for the Saskatoon Blades in February amid a slew of injuries.
RED DEER REBELS (PACIFIC)
The Rebels sported the AMHL's best record in the regular season with a 25-6-3 mark and won the championship against the Raiders. They then defeated the Vancouver Giants in the twostraight games in the Pacific Regional Championship.
SUDBURY NICKEL CAPITAL WOLVES (CENTRAL)
The Wolves earned a spot in the Central Regional Championship despite losing in their league final to the Sault Ste. Marie North Stars. The Wolves lost their first regional contest 7-1, but rebounded to eventually defeat the London Jr. Knights 4-3 in the tournament final.
PHENIX DU COLLEGE ESTHER-BLONDIN (QUEBEC)
The Quebec team racked up a 31-7-5 record, good for second in their league, before winning seven of eight playoff contests. They'll be making their first Telus Cup appearance. Laurent Dauphin led the way in scoring with 18 goals and 63 points in the regular season. He then added nine goals and 20 points in the post-season.
MONCTON FLYERS (ATLANTIC)
The Moncton Flyers went 5-0 in the Atlantic Regional Championship to earn a berth in their seventh Telus Cup. It is their second appearance in four years. The Flyers missed the playoffs at the 2009 tournament in Selkirk, Man., after going 1-4 in round-robin play.
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