The Prairie Hockey Academy continues to see incredible results from game to game, weekend to weekend.
This past weekend was no exception as they hosted their first-ever Elite 15's tournament and, true to form, saw the kind of results they could only dream about – an undefeated record through the round robin followed by a shootout win to claim the gold medal in the championship final at Barkman Arena in Caronport.
It was the first set of games for newly minted head coach Lorne Molleken and a showing that team captain Evan Callaghan felt was earned, given their recent run of success.
“It's really exciting, I think the boys battled pretty hard the whole weekend and we deserved it,” Callaghan said shortly after Atley Calvert's shootout goal and Nathan Airey's final save gave PHA a 3-2 win over the St. Albert Flyers, one of the top teams in the Alberta Midget AAA league.
“We just have to stay composed, though, for the rest of the season,” he added. “We have a long way to go but I think this is a good confidence booster for us and we're really happy with it.”
The championship final was a back-and-forth battle from start to finish, with St. Albert taking a 1-0 lead out of the first period. The lead held until late in the second Noah Barlage and Max Wanner scored power play goals 10 seconds apart for a 2-1 edge. The Flyers would get that one back before the period was out, though, sending things into the third all tied up.
“We were able to push back and get a couple of goals really quick and that really changed momentum for us in the game and turned the game in our favour,” Callaghan said. “They got one more on us, but we were able to shut them down the rest of the game and get a huge win for our team.”
The victory capped off a stellar run for the Cougars, as they opened the tournament with a 7-1 win over the SEAC Tigers out of Medicine Hat. Calvert and Kirk Mullen had two goals each in the game, to go along with single markers from Barlage, Liam McInnis and Chris Otterson. Chase Coward was the winning goaltender.
Things were far closer in their round robin matchup with the Flyers, which went to an 18-player shootout that saw Airey make all nine of his saves and McInnis score the eventual winning goal. Calvert had two more goals in regulation; Caelan Fitzpatrick had their other marker.
PHA closed out the round robin with a 3-0 win over the Lethbridge Headwater Hurricanes, with Coward picking up the shutout. Otterson scorede twice, Tyson Kistner had their other goal.
For his part, Molleken was impressed with what he saw from his new team – even if he didn't have a lot of time to work with the squad.
“The biggest thing is what they had in place was working and we just wanted to continue to build on that,” Molleken said. “Obviously, there will be some tweaks from there, but the staff that's worked with this team has done a tremendous job and they have a tremendous group of young men that have tremendous character.”