After testing themselves against some of the league's top teams earlier this month, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder are set to kick off the 2022 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) this Friday night against the Mountainview Colts.
Airdrie's junior B hockey team has played five preseason exhibitions this month, three of which were against the top two HJHL squads from last season – the Okotoks Bisons and Cochrane Generals. Highlighting there's still plenty of work to be done, the Thunder came out on the losing end of all three of those games, falling 5-4 and 10-2 to the Gens and 8-3 to the Bisons.
“It’s a stepping stone because they were [first and second] last year in the league, and we just wanted to see where we stood,” said Randy Buckle, the Thunder's new head coach. “Of course, if you’ve seen the scores, they were a little one-sided. One game wasn’t bad – it was a 5-4 game – but in the next two nights, [they were one-sided].”
Buckle did note the Thunder are still whittling down the final roster in the lead-up to this week's HJHL season-opener, meaning some of the trialists who were playing against Okotoks and Cochrane will have been cut by the time the squad takes to the ice to play the Colts.
“We have to have at least 20 players carded by Friday night’s game, which we’re pretty close to,” he said. “We have a practice [Tuesday] and we’ll be close to our final line-up after that practice.”
The Thunder fared better in their other two exhibitions, both of which were against Mountainview. Playing at home, Airdrie doused the Colts 11-0 on Friday night, and then followed up with a 5-4 shootout win in Didsbury the following evening.
“Friday night’s game got away from Mountainview,” Buckle admitted. “We kind of poured it on and kept capitalizing on our chances.”
Airdrie's head coach noted the Saturday night game was a much more even contest that ended in a tie after regulation time. The Thunder ultimately prevailed in the shootout, with Joey Haden sniping the winner.
“It was a really good hockey game, very back-and-forth,” Buckle said. “That’s more what I expect from Mountainview. I don’t expect a lot of the games to be like what we saw on Friday night, that’s for sure.”
Buckle said he encourages local hockey fans to come to the Ron Ebbesen Arena to check out the junior B team this season. The Thunder's games are typically held on Friday nights, starting at 8 p.m.
“We’re going to have a fast, young, and exciting hockey team,” he said. “I encourage people to come watch us if they can. It’s a high-speed game.”