Hockey Central Panthers take REMHL crown
The Hockey Central Panthers celebrate a championship win last month, capping off their inaugural season in the REMHL in the most successful way possible.(Photo supplied)
In their inaugural season in the Rural and Edmonton Midget Hockey League (REMHL), the Hockey Central Panthers made sure they made a good impression.
The team, which consists of players from across Central Alberta including Lacombe, Blackfalds, Alix, Sylvan Lake, Olds and other outlying areas, won the league crown last month after sweeping their St. Albert Royals opponents in their best-of-five series.
Not bad for a team that wasn’t much more than a thought a few months prior to the season when Red Deer made the decision to go down to just one minor midget AAA team.
“I was disappointed when Red Deer went down to one AAA team, but I was happy we were able to get a AA team going,” said Panthers Head Coach Lane Moore. “It’s so important to the development of these kids. It’s a big jump for them and it gives them a safe place to develop their skill and talents.”
The minor midget league is designed specifically to develop U15’s and help prepare them for the widespread 15-18 year-old grouping of major midget leagues. With a loss of a second AAA team in Red Deer this year, a number of players were going to be displaced, or pushed into less competitive leagues, so a group of hockey parents came together to form two AA teams – the Red Deer TBS Chiefs and the Hockey Central Panthers and enter the REMHL.
Both teams impressed in the regular season, with the Panthers recording a 19-4-4 record. The Chiefs were just behind them with an 18-5-4 record.
Moore says his team was talented coming in, but it was their attitude that perhaps set them apart from other teams.
“They came in with the attitude they wanted to become better hockey players and they bought in right from the start that this was about development,” he said. “They were prepared to put in the hard work, time and effort. They were good kids – it was easy to coach them because I got to focus on skill development and team building.”
Not that there weren’t some kinks to work through. The team played in a few midget AA tournaments where their record didn’t have the same shine as their regular season one did, but Moore said it was good for them to play against older players.
“They learned real hard they weren’t going to be at the top all the team. They learned what that next level was going to be like, and then brought that back to our league and did well in the playoffs,” Moore said.
The team went undefeated in the round robin of the playoffs, but then faced some adversity in their semifinal against the Edmonton Canadian Athletic Club. They jumped to a two-game series lead, but then allowed their opponents to tie the series.They made it count in Game 5, however, winning 4-2 to get to the finals.
“When we won that Game 5, they learned quickly what it was going to take. They kept their emotions together, they learned they had to put the time and energy in to win,” he said.
“Then we went into the final series against St. Albert, which was a really good team and beat them in three straight. We were really meshing at that point.”
In the wake of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy which saw 15 hockey players, team personnel and a play-by-play man killed, Moore also touched on how special it is to spend time with kids.
“It really sets home. They become part of your family - they’re almost like my kids. It’s such a special bond,” he said. “To come out on top like this makes it even more special. I was so proud of the boys – they learned lots, they had fun and it was certainly nice they were successful.”
2017-18 Hockey Central Panthers Team
#1 Shaye Barber-Lacombe
#2 Austin Downey-Sylvan Lake
#3 Dawson Beier – Alix
#4 Joe Partington – Lacombe
#6 Myles Pallister – Lacombe
#7 Zach Zurak – Sylvan Lake
#8 Ben Christian – Spruceview
#9 Bryn Hoiland – Rocky Mountain House
#10 Josh Johnston – Blackfalds
#11 Kolby McCurrach – Eckville
#12 Ty Bjarnason – Olds
#14 Kaleb Kremp – Innisfail
#15 Gerrit Handford – Innisfail
#16 Easton Moore – Bentley
#17 Riley Cann – Sylvan Lake
#18 Easton Springinatic – Sylvan Lake
#19 Brandon Letendre – Blackfalds
#20 Wyatt Petrie – Lacombe
#31 Jaxson Talsma – Lacombe
Head Coach Lane Moore
Assistant Coach Craig Cann
Assistant Coach Jason Petrie
Assistant Coach Bradyn Adams
Manager Darcie Downey