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AC Avalanche provides transitional platform for high-level hockey players

The Airdrie-Cochrane (AC) Avalanche enjoyed a winning start to the 2019-20 season Sept. 29, as the AAA minor midget hockey team earned a 2-1 home victory over the Calgary Royals Gold.

The Cochrane-based team competes in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League (AMMHL) – a league for high-level 15-year-olds who might not be physically ready for the midget age group.

The one-year nature of the minor midget age group means the Avalanche has a completely new roster every season – something head coach Terry Sydoryk said he enjoys.

“You get one year with the players, and there’s no [hierarchy] of players being first-year or second-year,” he said. “It changes things, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

The Avalanche is part of the Airdrie Cochrane Athletic Association (ACAA), which oversees the three AAA boys’ hockey teams in the two municipalities. Along with the Avalanche, the ACAA includes the Airdrie Xtreme for bantam players and the Airdrie Bisons for midget players. Elite hockey players from the Airdrie/Cochrane area often end up playing for all three as they manoeuvre through their minor hockey careers.

As evidence of that relationship between the teams, last year’s Avalanche roster included eight players who are now on the Bisons, according to Sydoryk. Furthermore, most of this year’s Avalanche players were on the Xtreme last year.

“That’s something that has been worked on, as far as the association goes,” Sydoryk said, of the player pipeline that exists between the three teams.

While most kids tend to want to jump directly from the Xtreme to the Bisons, for some players, according to Sydoryk, spending a year playing for the Avalanche has many benefits.

“The biggest thing I preach to the parents is that, from 15 to 17, there is a lot of growth that happens to the kids,” he said.

“Some will be blessed with maturing physically and mentally earlier than others, so that helps, but ultimately, spending a year with individuals like yourself at a skill level like yourself – those are all bonuses, as far as ongoing development.”

After only finishing 11th in the south division last season, Sydoryk said, the Avalanche had a highly-competitive training camp this year, and he expects the team to put forward a strong showing in the AMMHL.

“I really feel we have a lot of speed this year, so I’m interested to see how the kids develop and if they can take advantage of their speed,” he said. “That, for me, is one thing we should be able to capitalize on, relative to other teams in the league.”

Following its season-opening victory, the Avalanche returned to the ice Oct. 4 and 6 (after press time) for games against the Okotoks Oilers and Northwest Calgary Bruins. The team will be on the road Oct. 8 for a battle with the Calgary Northstars Canucks at the Max Bell Centre in Calgary. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

For a full schedule of the Avalanche’s games in 2019-20, visit ammhl.ca



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Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, sports/RCMP reporter
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