By Greg Price
Taber bantam “AA” Golden Suns have continued its dominant stretch of hockey these last two months, winning a tournament in Cranbrook over the weekend, and in the process, avenging two of the three losses the team has suffered in a stretch of 17 games.
None of the four final scores the Taber bantam “AA” Golden Suns registered in Cranbrook left the results in doubt with a wide margin of goal differentials.
“It’s fun going to tournaments where there’s a little less pressure than league play. You still want to win a championship, but it gives the boys a little more of a chance to play loose. This tournament has resulted in another step up for our club,” said Cam Cleland, head coach of the Taber bantam “AA” Golden Suns. “It is quite satisfying to see the growth we have been having from practice and then us coming out the next weekend and putting it all together where we are that much tougher.”
Taber squared off against the host Cranbrook Hornets in the championship game, a squad they battled to a tight 8-7 win and 6-5 loss in a road doubleheader back in late November. There would be no such tight game in the gold-medal final in a 6-2 Suns win.
“We delivered a couple of big checks early in the game to set the tone. We were very aware of their star player, he’s a great player and we made sure we finished our checks on him. Our guy, D.J. Tonin did a great job shifting against him and he had an opportunity in the first period where he delivered a hard, clean check that knocked him out of the game,” said Cleland. “It got them off their game where they got into the penalties getting undisciplined. It got our power play going and then we gave some penalties back and our penalty kill came up big that game also.”
The bantam Golden Suns made it to the championship final by dominating Calgary with a 9-0 shutout.
“We wanted to get to that championship game and they didn’t have a chance right from the first puck drop,” said Cleland.
The Golden Suns started off its tournament run with a game against Spokane, where the opposition tried coming out physical here, and the Suns matched them in their physicality.
“They were trying to take the game to us and I don’t think they were ready to have it returned to them. We straightened our play out and then we started to put a lot of pucks behind them,” said Cleland of the eventual 8-2 victory.
Next up was a change in pool play where the Suns ended up playing Bow Valley Timberwolves, a team they had lost to previously on Oct. 8 at the Taber Arena.
“We really jumped on them and brought a good team game. Everyone played a lot, with short shifts. We rolled over them pretty heavy, said Cleland of the 9-1 win.
The Golden Suns concluded pool play with the hardest team in its pool in Penticton, but the Suns proved just as dominant.
“We ran into these guys last year at peewee and they have a good team that is well coached. Again, we brought a really good team game with strong shifts, our power play was really good moving the puck around, even our 5-on-5 play was very good and disciplined with the different zones we are trying to apply our game to,” said Cleland of the 6-2 win. “The kids are really buying into the concepts with the team game.”
Earning a 14-3 record in the last two months of play, Cleland can’t recall the last time the Taber bantam “AA” Golden Suns have had a real forgettable game in its quality of play.
“Our goaltending has been very consistent where we are splitting it up 50/50 and it doesn’t matter to the team who starts because there is confidence in both guys,” said Cleland. “The Cranbrook coach even made a comment saying how much our team has grown in how we play as a team. The greatest thing about this is we aren’t having to double up our first line. We are switching things up on short whistles making sure we got fresh legs. We are putting everything together.”
Taber bantam “AA” Golden Suns host Medicine Hat Hounds on Saturday at the Taber Arena at 5:30 p.m. The team then hits the road on Sunday to play Lethbridge Hurricanes to close out SCAHL play for 2016.
PEEWEE: Taber peewee “AA” Golden Suns (6-5-3) split its pair of South Central Alberta Hockey League games over the weekend on the road.
Saturday’s slate featured a 7-1 win over Central Alberta Selects (1-14-4), as the Suns’ special tams shone with five power plays goals and a short-handed goal.
Rylen Roersma had the hat trick to go with an assist. Rylan Millo, Ryan Holm, Jed Magarrell and Griffin McCulloch had singles.
John VandenElzen and Caden Heins each had two helpers with Nathan Verloop, Ty Fraser, Millo and Hunter Van Vaerenbergh each getting single assists.
Scout Sidam earned the win in net for the Suns, facing 17 shots on goal.
The peewee Golden Suns then proceeded to drop an 8-5 decision to Red Deer (10-2-3) on Sunday afternoon, as the Suns fell behind in a 5-0 deficit they could not battle back from
VandenElzen had the hat trick and Fraser and Roersma had singles. Heins, Tyler Maslen and Zachary Hauk had assists. Sidam and Landon Porteous split goaltending duties, facing 33 shots between them and surrendering four goals each.
Taber peewee “AA” Golden Suns hit the road this weekend with a game against Airdrie Lightning Red on Saturday.
MIDGET: Taber midget “AA” Golden Suns (6-9-4) had to postpone its Friday home game at the Taber Arena due to mechanical problems for the team bus for the Cranbrook Dynamiters.
The team did manage to skate to a 5-5 draw with Lethbridge Hurricanes (6-94) on the road on Sunday, furiously rallying back from a 5-2 deficit heading into the third period.
Weston Graumann had two tallies with Justin Astalos, Brady Garner and Chase Gedny getting singles. Hayden Mack drew two assists with Tanner Turcato, Cole Jensen, Kole Fujita and Logan Kiss getting single helpers.
Theo Paskuski kept the Golden Suns in the game, getting pelted with 52 shots on goal.
Taber midget “AA” Golden Suns host Cranbrook Dynamiters on Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Taber Arena. The team also hosts Medicine Hat Hounds on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Taber Arena.