By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Back and bigger than ever, the fifth annual Strathmore Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) atom tournament was a success on many levels.
The demand for entries last year was so huge, the SMHA decided to double the tourney’s size.
“Last year we had over 70 teams show interest in our tournament,” said SMHA president Natalie Haslund. “Based on the number of teams that showed interest, we needed more ice time. With the added cost of one more rink, we wanted to fill it to its maximum, so we took this opportunity to go big and make it work.”
The results showed 40 teams – five local and 35 teams from elsewhere – flock to Wheatland County, as games were played at the Strathmore Family Centre, Gleichen, and Standard, Nov. 10-12.
While the total number of entries doubled, there were still only five local Strathmore Storm teams.
The entire format of the tournament had to be changed as well. In years past, a simple round robin sorted teams out into playoff placement. That was not possible this year with all the entries. Instead, they used a bracket format with an A, B and C side championship, guaranteeing teams a minimum of three games regardless of their outcome in the opener.
“We felt it was a very competitive tourney. We had a lot of games end up 3-3 and went off to shootouts, which was fun to watch,” said Haslund. “We did have a couple blowouts, but not too many. So for the most part, they were fun, competitive games to watch regardless of who was playing.”
This year, no local teams hoisted a trophy in the A, B or even C side brackets. The closest team to reach a title was Strathmore Storm C, which fell 9-3 to the Clive Blackhawks Nov. 12 at the Family Centre gold rink.
The Storm C were optioned to the B side after they lost their opener Nov. 10 6-5 to the Bow Valley Flames in Standard. That same day, they dumped the St. Albert Saints 7-3 in the gold arena. Playing in the B semis Nov. 11, the Storm clipped the Whitemud Rebels 4-3 in the gold arena.
The Storm A won their tourney opener 4-3 against a different Bow Valley Flames squad Nov. 10 at the Family Centre blue rink. In the A side quarterfinals, they were handed a 14-2 loss to the Medicine Hat Hounds Nov. 11 at the gold arena. They wrapped up the tournament with a 9-2 loss to the Redcliff Grizzlies Nov. 11 at the blue arena.
The Storm B also opened up their tourney with a win. They downed a Bow Valley Flames team 9-6 Nov. 10 at the gold arena. From there, they fell 4-2 to the eventual A side champs, the Irvine Bulldogs 4-2 Nov. 11 at the gold arena. Playing on the B side, they wrapped up their tourney with a 7-2 loss to the Cochrane Rockies Nov. 11 at the gold arena.
The Storm D went to work in Standard. They dropped their opener 7-6 to the Millwood Huskies Nov. 10. They bounced back with a 13-1 thumping of the Cochrane Rockies that evening, also in Standard. Playing their only game in Strathmore, the Storm were downed 13-1 in their final game against the Southwest Cougars Nov. 11 in the blue arena.
The Storm E was the final local team to compete. They went winless on the weekend, dropping a game to the Edmonton Oil Queens, 3-2 in Gleichen Nov. 10. They also fell 9-3 to the Chestermere Lakers later that day in Standard and wrapped up the tournament with a 2-1 loss to the Whitemud Rebels Nov. 11 in Standard.
With double the tourney size, SMHA was able to raise enough money to the point where they are able to give between $1,000 and $1,500 back to teams in the program. There was also enough money to provide each of the kids a tournament t-shirt, grab bag and a hockey puck hacky sack. The program was able to raise such funds thanks to a strong showing in the 50-50 draw, raffle tickets and a triple-threat board fundraiser.
“We had a ton of positive feedback from people who attended the tournament,” said Haslund. “Being that it was our first time holding a tournament this size, of course there was some constructive criticism, but we made a note of what we can improve on for when we host the novice tournament.”
Looking down the road, the SMHA will also use some of the money raised last weekend to purchase divider boards, which will be required for novice tournaments in two years’ time.
The novice tournament runs Jan. 5-7, 2018, and will also feature a much larger draw, as they will host six local teams and 35 teams from elsewhere in Alberta.
“We had a ton of volunteers and parents help out this weekend and support our atom program,” said Haslund. “It really made for a great weekend, and we are looking for much of the same when the novice tournament takes place in the New Year.”