The reigning HJHL Champions, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder, are heading to provincials tomorrow to battle it out against Alberta's top teams.
Head Coach Derek Stamp said the team is feeling confident following the dominant showing during their playoff run.
"I think we're feeling a fairly high level of self--confidence going in just based off the regular season we had, the success we've had in the playoffs and knowing what this hockey team can do when we play our game. We're confident but we're also eager to see how we match up with them against the rest of the province."
Stamp explained that winning and coming out champions really settled the team.
"By wrapping up the Heritage with the championship, I think our guys are going into provincials with kind of relaxed confidence. It doesn't feel like there's a lot of pressure on us. We know if we play our game that we're going to be able to be successful."
The Thunder have been keeping in shape, but Stamp said there has not really been a weak area that they have needed to focus on.
"We're always looking to make sure that our structure is in place and that we're focused on the details. We worked a lot on our power play and our penalty kill this week, we made sure that we're managing the puck properly, both when we have possession and when we don't. We'll be missing a couple of guys that won't be able to play in provincials, so (there will be) some lineup adjustments. Some of the guys who didn't get to play in the playoffs are going to get an opportunity. Overall, we feel ready and we think our game is ready to go."
The Thunder are obviously an offensively dominant team, displaying time and time again that they can easily find the back of the net. However, in their last game against Coaldale, a few goals from the opposing Copperheads trickled past them. Stamp wrapped that up to excitement.
"We're not concerned. The last game against Coaldale, the late goals that we were giving up were more due to early celebration or lack of focus than it was in terms of any defensive breakdown. Ben Orde was one of the key defencemen we had throughout the playoff run. He's unavailable for the provincials so it's going to give an opportunity for the other guys to step up. Overall, we know that if we play 'D' as a team, we're going to be able to take away scoring chances. We know that our defensemen are going to be able to make that first pass, they're going to be able to play structured in our own end and help us transition into offence."
Some Thunder players will be unable to attend provincials, while others will miss a game or two. Stamp said, instead of seeing this as a problem, is confident in his team.
"Ben is the big one on the back end, he's unavailable for the whole weekend. We have a couple of guys who are missing Thursday's game but are available for the rest of the weekend. It just gives some opportunities. Dane Bennett-Nimijean, a rookie on our team, he was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs, he's going to have an opportunity to play Thursday. Some other guys who maybe played less minutes throughout the playoffs are going to get the opportunity to take on more of a role in that first game. And from there, who knows? We'll make adjustments as we go."
The provincials will be a one-weekend tourney compared to the sometimes week-long playoff series that the Thunder are used to, but once again, Stamp said he had confidence in his team.
"We think so. We are as confident as we can be. There's limited knowledge on the other teams there aside from Coaldale. We've done research and we've spoken with some people and gotten some feedback about the teams, but until you actually get in there and start playing them, it's going to be difficult to tell. It's also the style of a weekend tournament, different than a long series, so a lot of different things can happen in those types of situations. But, like I said, going in we're confident that if we play our game, we'll be able to have success."
Provincials get underway tomorrow at 4:15 where the Thunder will take on the Edmonton Beverly Warriors.
Comments? Questions? Story ideas? Email us at [email protected]