Going up against the best

Photo courtesy of Byron Hackett/Red Deer Advocate Prince Albert Mintos teammates Ashton Ferster and Marek Schneider keep an eye on Matthew Savoie as Saskatchewan took on Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer last week.

When the members of Saskatchewan’s under 16 men’s hockey program met up in Regina two weeks ago, their first activity was to stand up in a team meeting and introduce themselves to their teammates.

The get to know you process proved to be a key in getting off to a good start ahead of the Canada Winter Games, as the program came away with a fourth place finish in Red Deer last weekend.

“We came a long way from that first meeting,” Prince Albert Mintos forward Gabe Klassen said.

“It felt like we really clicked from the first time we went out on the ice. We had played against each other a lot over the years, but once we started played as a team everything started to click.”

Klassen was one of four Prince Albert players on the team, which included Mintos teammates Marek Schneider, Logan Cox and Ashton Ferster.

“It was great to be playing together and it was also great to be playing with guys that we’ve faced in our careers, as it seemed like we all knew what skills we brought to the table,” Schneider said.

Saskatchewan also featured signed Prince Albert Raiders defensive prospect Nolan Allan of Davidson and drafted forward Logan Linklater of Kindersley.

“I think the biggest highlight for me was getting to face the Eastern provinces and going up against the top players in Canada that are in our age group,” Allan said.

“The pace was pretty much balls out from the first game with every team and I think having that experience of being in the WHL helps a lot. You are going up against bigger, stronger and faster players and it really gets you ready for what’s next.”

Although Saskatchewan’s week ended with a tough 12-0 loss to Alberta in the bronze medal game, it was still a strong tournament for the program as they were one win away from winning the province’s first medal in the men’s hockey event since 1995.

“Even though the result didn’t go our way in the bronze medal game, I think we still brought the effort right until the very end,” Klassen said. “We all played really well during the week and I think we turned a lot of heads.”

“We beat the hosts from Alberta in our first round-robin game and I think that was a real eye-opener to the rest of the field and ourselves as to how good we could be,” Schneider added.  “Every team wants to come away with a medal and the level of play picks up three or four notches as the tournament goes along. It was pretty crazy.”

Allan had four goals and two assists during the week, while Linklater lit the lamp four times.

Klassen had four points at the tournament, while Ferster and Cox had three or two points respectively.

Schneider, who was an assistant captain on the team with Allan, was held off of the scoresheet.

Forward Tyson Laventure, who was a second round pick by the Raiders in 2018, earned a bronze medal with Alberta and had six points at the tournament.

Raiders defensive draft pick Tayem Gisalson had a pair of assists for Manitoba, who finished the tournament in fifth place.