A third of the way through the 2019-20 regular season, the Airdrie Lightning AA midget boys’ hockey team is concentrating on putting together a “complete game,” according to head coach Kyle Finch.
“That’s something we need to really focus on right now,” said Finch, who took over the coaching reins from Sean Gilbert this season. “When we do that, we’re among the top teams in the league. When we’re not doing it, we’re not really setting ourselves up for success.”
The Lightning certainly didn’t have its most complete game Nov. 15 – a 7-1 defeat against the Calgary Northstars Canucks. The loss means Airdrie has a 4-7-1 record, putting the squad in fourth place of the six-team North Conference of the South Central Alberta Hockey League (SCAHL).
Airdrie will look to shake off the heavy setback on home ice Nov. 23, when the team takes on the Central Alberta Selects at the Ron Ebbesen Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
While Airdrie is above the Selects in SCAHL standings, Central Alberta beat the Lightning 6-3 in the teams previous encounter this season. Finch said he expects a competitive battle between two sides that are not afraid to play a physical game.
“It’s really going to be a matter of who can play disciplined, and establish that fore check and physicality from the start of the game, and who can maintain it,” he said.
It will be a two-game weekend for the Lightning, which will be back at Ron Ebbesen Nov. 24, for a 4:15 p.m. clash against the last-place Bow Valley Timberwolves.
This year’s Lightning roster is very different than last season, according to Finch, who coached Airdrie’s AA boys’ bantam team in 2018-19. With 11 players aging out of the age group last year, the squad is comprised of a mixture of players who have come up from competitive bantam and minor-midget programs, as well as a few second- and third-year players who were on the midget team last season.
“It’s a really dynamic group,” he said. “A lot of guys have really bought in and they understand what it takes to compete at the next level.”
While development is always a focus for high-school-aged players, Finch said, the desire to win is still top of mind.
“These guys are very motivated and work very hard,” he said. “They practice twice a week, and are in the gym twice a week, on top of games. They want to win, and we’re hoping we can have a positive outcome at the end of the year.”
On top of league play, Finch said, the Lightning is looking forward to competing at the second annual Western Canada Midget AA Showdown Dec. 12 to 15. Hosted at the Max Bell Centre by the Global Sport Academy Group and the Calgary Royals, the tournament provides midget AA players the opportunity to be scouted by junior A and B programs from across western Canada.