It’s crunch time for the Edge School’s midget prep team in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), as the Mountaineers prepare for the homestretch of the 2019-20 regular season.
With seven regular-season fixtures remaining, as of Feb. 14, the Springbank-based squad occupies fourth place in the nationwide private-school league’s 16-team midget prep (AAA) division, with an 18-8-3 record.
While finishing in the top three is the Mountaineers’ goal, head coach James Poole said what’s more important is ending the regular season on a positive note, and ensuring the team carries that momentum into the post-season.
“Honestly, I don’t think this year, with the playoff format, that regular-season placement is going to be that important,” he said. “We have seven tough games to finish off the regular season, and we really want to get that consistency into our game – where we’re close to our best, because that’s where we need to be, come playoff time.
“If we do that, we think the results will take care of themselves and give us a lot of confidence going into playoffs, where the results really do matter.”
After finishing third in the regular-season standings last year, the Edge stumbled in the playoffs, winning just one of three games.
Strong defending, goaltending and penalty killing were hallmarks of the squad last year. This season, according to Poole, success has been a full-team effort, and he said he’s been pleased with how the group has improved over the past several months.
“Early in the year, I’d say there was a big gap between the top team and us in the league,” he said. “Noticeably, I feel we’ve closed the gap on the top team, that Northern Alberta Xtreme team.”
The season hasn’t been without adversity for the Edge. According to Poole, key players suffered injuries in December 2019 and January, including forwards Jayden Davis, Sam Vincent and Max Monette, as well as defenseman Sam Kroon.
While injuries are never good news, Poole said, the hardship offered other players the opportunity to carve out more important roles.
“It’s improved a lot of our players and we feel we’re now a deeper team that has a number of players who can really contribute up and down our lineup – who can come up big for us when we need them,” he said.
Rieger Lorenz, a 2004-born forward, stands out and leads the Edge in scoring with 33 goals and 64 points in just 28 games. Poole said the 15-year-old, who is committed to NCAA Division 1 with Denver University in 2022, has improved his offensive productivity in recent months.
“You’re never sure how some of these Grade 10s are going to transition to midget prep out of bantam,” he said. “I think [Lorenz] started off OK, but if you look at how he’s played in the last 15 games, it’s been really impressive to see him take that step up in his game and become an impact player for our team, night-in, night-out.”
Despite being one of the youngest players on the roster, Lorenz – who was drafted last year in the third round of the Western Hockey League’s Bantam Draft by the Winnipeg Ice – is third in the midget prep division’s scoring charts.
“Stats-wise, he’s put up some really good numbers over the last few months,” Poole said.
The Mountaineers headed north Feb. 15 and 16 (after press time) for two road tilts with OHA Edmonton and the first-place Northern Alberta Xtreme.
“We’re at a point where we feel pretty comfortable going against [the Xtreme] and we know it’s going to be a tight game,” Poole said.
The Edge will play its final home fixtures of the regular season Feb. 21 and 22, at 7 and 1:15 p.m., respectively. Both games will feature tough opponents – the Xtreme and the third-place RINK Hockey Academy from Winnipeg, Man.
The Mountaineers will cap off the regular season with a trip to Manitoba at the end of February, for three games in three days at the RINK Training Centre.
The CSSHL’s playoff tournament will take place mid-March in Penticton, B.C.