Mac's tourney next up for Okanagan Rockets
Featuring three of Western Canada's winningest teams, it just might be the toughest pool of all at this year's edition of the Mac's Midget Hockey Tournament in Calgary.
The BMMCL-leading Okanagan Rockets (20-3-1) will be joined in by the two-time defending champion Red Deer Optimist Chiefs (13-4-4) and Saskatchewan's top team, the Notre Dame Argos (21-4-2).
The host Calgary Flames and Cariboo Cougars will round out the five-team pool as the 2013 tournament opens on Boxing Day.
"It looks like somebody at Mac's is trying to get rid of some good teams early," joked Rockets GM David Michaud. "Every pool is tough, but to have the two-time Telus defending champs (Red Deer) and the top team from Saskatchewan in our pool, those will be real tests for us. The (Calgary) Flames have been struggling, but actually haven't lost in December. Cariboo has been struggling too, but I'm sure they'll get up for us. There is never an easy night at Mac's."
While their opponents are formidable, Michaud like his team's schedule as all four pool games for the Rockets will be played mid-day, with no short turnarounds between games.
Okanagan opens play Dec. 26 at 11:45 a.m. against the host Flames.
The Rockets, who have never made the playoffs at Mac's, went 2-2-0 at last year's tournament.
Based on his current team's experience, Michaud believes this year's Rockets squad is properly equipped to at least be in contention for a playoff berth.
"We had a pretty good hockey team here last year, too, but the difference for me is the age factor," he said. "We have 10 17-year-old players this year, the most we've had here. There'll still be some nerves, but guys like (Gen) Bryshun and (Branden) Wagner have a lot of experience, they've been here three times, so there shouldn't be too many surprises for those kinds of players."
Still, win or lose, Michaud said the Mac's tournament is a can't-miss event for his team.
"Nothing bad ever happens at the Mac's," he said. "The good news is, if we have a bad week, then we have a lot of time to learn from our mistakes and correct them. It's a great learning experience, a tournament with a great environment and heritage. Our players will benefit from being there no matter what."
The Rockets will the last of four round-robin games on Dec. 30 against Notre Dame.
Eight of the 25 teams will make the playoffs, with the championship final to be played on New Year's Day.
Following Mac's, the Rockets will take part in the Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament, Jan. 8 to 12.