For the second year in a row, the Airdrie Xtreme will have just one player competing in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League’s (AMBHL) All-Star Game, Jan. 11 in Edmonton.
Xtreme captain Grady Hauk will be Airdrie’s sole representative at the game, which pits the top AAA bantam hockey players from the north and south divisions against each other.
“It’s pretty cool to be selected and get to play with all those great players in the league,” he said. “I was pretty excited to hear about it, and my teammates were happy for me, too.”
The 14-year-old is the only returning player among the Xtreme’s defensive corps this year, and according to head coach Tyson Soloski, his experience has been pivotal for the team.
“He’s having a great season for us and he’s just a presence on the back end,” he said. “He really leads by example, and he’s always out there working as hard as he can. He’s really steady in his D-zone and he contributes offensively, as well.
“We rely on him a lot, whether it’s playing hard minutes against top-team players, or contributing on the power play.”
As a first-year AMBHL player in 2018-19, Hauk played 28 games for the Xtreme, registering nine points. He’s already bettered that total in just 21 games this campaign, with three goals and seven assists.
“My confidence has been going up, just because I was here last year and I know what to expect,” Hauk said. “I know the game-style and the pace, and I feel that’s helped me quite a bit.”
Soloski added his captain’s assuredness has been a calming influence on the Xtreme’s rookie defensemen this season.
“We have a pretty young D-core, with three kids who are first-years,” he said. “[Hauk] really settles them down and makes sure he leads by example, game-in, game-out – and at practice, as well.”
It’s been a mixed season for the Xtreme thus far. Despite only boasting a 7-13-4 record, Airdrie is currently in second place of the Ram South Division – a comfortable position with regards to qualifying for the AMBHL playoffs in March.
“I’d say we’re pretty confident, but we know how important it is to keep winning and keep getting those points,” Hauk said. “We have quite a good team this year and we could go pretty far, if we keep playing the way we can.”
According to Soloski, the Xtreme’s placement in the Ram South standings as of Dec. 14, 2019 – the deadline for the All-Star Game’s player selection – is the reason only one player was selected for the fixture. However, he added the team won a game against the Lethbridge Golden Hawks that same night, which propelled the Xtreme into second place.
“If they’d have counted that game, we would have been able to send two players,” Soloski said. “But that being said, it is what it is, and I’m glad [Hauk] gets to go.”
Soloski added he felt both of Airdrie’s goaltenders – Zach Zahara and Rhett Stoesser – deserved selection, as could have one or two of the Xtreme’s forwards.