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Big things expected from girls NAHC team
Leiha Crier is confident she can once again guide a team to a medal-winning performance at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
This marks the eighth straight year that Crier has served as the coach for the Alberta girls team at the national tournament.
Crier guided her squad to a bronze medal at the 2011 NAHC held in Saskatoon. It was the first time the Alberta girls’ squad had captured a medal at the NAHC.
Crier believes her club can also pick up some more hardware at this year’s NAHC, which will also be held in Saskatoon and runs May 7-12.
“I’m really excited about the team this year,” Crier said. “Everything looks sharp. I’m thinking they’re going to be able to play in the gold-medal game.”
The girls division at the NAHC will feature eight entrants. An eight-team boys category will also be contested.
All teams are ranked based on where they placed a year ago. Teams that did not take part in 2011 were placed at the bottom of the rankings.
For round-robin action, the Alberta girls team, seeded third, has been placed in a pool with second-ranked Eastern Door and the North, which is comprised of Quebec-based players, the number six seed from the Northwest Territories and seventh-ranked Ontario.
The other pool features top-ranked Saskatchewan as well as Manitoba (fourth), British Columbia (fifth) and Team Atlantic (eighth).
Regardless of their round-robin results, all squads will advance to a quarter-final game.
The girls division is for bantam (14- and 15-year-olds) and midget (16-17) players. All girls clubs though can also carry a maximum of four overage players, who are either 18 or 19.
The boys competition is for midget players. And no overagers are allowed.
The Alberta girls roster features just one overager, Raylene Cutknife, who is 19.
Cutknife is one of seven returnees on the Alberta team. And she has plenty of experience at the NAHC as this is the sixth straight year she’ll compete in the tournament.
Another key player for Alberta is expected to be Jess Reid, who plays defence. Reid is expected to be named the team’s captain.
Crier also has a couple of capable netminders she can call upon; Kaelin Klim, who starred at last year’s NAHC, as well as newcomer Cheyanne Eagle.
The Alberta girls squad staged its initial training camp in Edmonton in March. A total of 25 players attended that camp.
Team officials then went on some scouting missions, attending both the Treaty championships in Calgary and the Native provincials in Edmonton.
A total of 50 players were then invited to the team’s final camp in mid-April in Edmonton. The club’s 20-player roster (and four alternates) was chosen from this group.
As for the Alberta boys entry, it will be hoping to improve upon its performance at last year’s nationals where it placed sixth. That club managed to register just one victory in its six games.
For its round-robin play, the squad will compete in a pool with second-ranked EDN, third-seeded Ontario and the Northwest Territories, ranked seventh.
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