A Beiseker hockey team is hoping to blaze a path to the U15 Tier 3 provincial championships this weekend.
After earning the U15 Tier 3 'Orange' and U15 Tier 3 'B' banners in the Central Alberta Hockey League (CAHL), the Beiseker Blazers have the opportunity to extend their 2022-23 season by a couple more weeks if they are successful in a four-team round-robin playoff tournament this weekend.
The Blazers are playing in a round-robin tournament from March 10 to 12, taking on other Tier 3 teams from Airdrie, Lethbridge, and Innisfail. The winning team will advance to the Tier 3 provincials, which will be held in Tofield the weekend of March 24.
Jason Woodward, the team's head coach, said the Blazers are itching to get back on the ice this weekend after a string of recent successes.
“We’ve been playing pretty good hockey," he said, adding the village has really gotten behind the U15 group this season. "It’s really fun to watch. "We’ve had lots of people come out to our games recently. It’s actually been really neat to see.”
Beiseker is hosting Lethbridge at the Doug Hagel Arena on Friday at 7 p.m., will travel north to face Innisfail on Saturday at 2:15 p.m., and will wrap up the round robin in Airdrie on Sunday with a game at 4:15 p.m. at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
No matter how the weekend shakes up, the season has already been highly positive for Beiseker's U15 Tier 3 team. The Blazers are coming off a recent banner win, after beating teams from Rimbey and Claresholm on March 3 and 5 to claim the CAHL's Tier 3 B title.
Before that, they'd overcome a team from Airdrie to claim their division (the CAHL Tier 3 B Orange division) with a 2-1 victory in the league final.
Away from their CAHL schedule (the Blazers finished the regular season with a 10-6 record) the Blazers also picked up a gold medal at a tournament in Wetaskiwin this winter, and a silver medal at their home tournament in Beiseker.
Woodward said the Blazers have developed a strong sense of camaraderie this winter, despite 12 of the players being in their first year of U15 hockey and the other seven in their second year.
“Everybody's coming together and making the effort count,” he said, adding the team is particularly good at piling pressure on their opponent. “We’re a good fore-checking team.”
The head coach added the team's strength also comes from the dedication of the players. In addition to twice-weekly practices and two games every weekend, the majority of the Blazers players are also part of the hockey program at Beiseker Community School, which includes three weekly sessions. That means some of the players are honing their skills on the ice up to seven times a week.
“There’s a lot of dedication,” Woodward said.