Long journey on for Calgary AAA Buffaloes in bid to win 2024 Telus Cup

Calgary’s Under-18 AAA Alberta champs boast big depth for shot at national glory

Article content

The long haul began even before the actual grind begins for the Calgary Under-18 AAA Buffaloes.

How’s this for travel to the 2024 Telus Cup in Membertou, N.S.?

Article content

A lengthy red-eye flight Saturday night before landing in Halifax at 7 a.m., followed by a six-plus-hour bus ride to Cape Breton and team photos, ceremonies and other events upon their 1:30 p.m. AT arrival.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Ugh.

“I mean … it’s all part of the experience,” said Buffaloes forward Luke McFarlane of the journey just to reach the Hockey Canada’s Men’s U18 National Club Championship.

“It’s just keeping level-headed, trying to get as much sleep as you can, staying hydrated and eating right,” continued McFarlane. “But I think just the excitement of just going to this tournament is going to fuel the fire.”

The tourney begins for the Buffaloes on Monday against the host Sydney Rush at Membertou Sport & Wellness Centre (4 p.m. MT).

As Pacific Region winners, they follow with more round-robin action Tuesday — against the Atlantic-champion Kensington Wild from Prince Edward Island (noon MT); Wednesday — versus the central-king Markham Waxers from Ontario (8 a.m. MT); Thursday — against the Western-champ Brandon Wheat Kings (8 a.m. MT); and Friday — versus the Quebec-winning Cantonniers de Magog (8 a.m. MT).

All games are being live-streamed on FASTHockey.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“It’s like basically seven games in seven days,” said Buffaloes head coach Brent Harrison. “So we’ve got to get our rest when we can, make sure that we’re not taxing certain guys too much throughout the round robin and just make sure that we’re eating right, getting our sleep, getting our rest … all that stuff.”

“Yeah … it’s a helluva grind,” agreed Buffs defenceman Zak Green. “But we’ve got a tight group. So I know we’re going to go in there and give it our best. It’s going to be about sticking together as a team.”

They’ve done that well so far this year.

Rocking four solid lines and a sound trio of defensive pairings in front of solid goaltending has vaulted the Buffs to this point — through the Alberta Elite Hockey League season, onward to the U18 AAA provincial title and past the host Vancouver North East Chiefs in the Pacific Region series earlier this month.

They scored at least five goals in five of their eight playoff wins to grab the league title, and those wins of 3-2 and 1-0 in the Pacific set proved they know how to shut the door on other teams.

“We’re a team that has been able to score goals, and we play a pretty good team-defensive game, but I’d say the depth is a big part of that,” Morrison said. “We’re able to trust a lot of different guys in key situations.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Good thing, because the Buffs need all that for the Telus Cup grind.

And Harrison himself knows that first-hand, having guided the Buffaloes to the semifinals — where they lost 4-2, basically a one-goal game, to the Toronto Young Canadians — in the 2019 Telus Cup.

“Oh … we’ve got good depth,” continued Harrison. “As the season’s gone on, I think our depth has kind of shown to be better than maybe we thought at the start of the year. So it’s right up there. So I think that does favour us.”

Calgary Under-18 AAA Buffaloes
The Calgary Under-18 AAA Buffaloes celebrate their Telus Cup berth after sweeping the Vancouver North East Chiefs. Photos courtesy Calgary Under-18 AAA Buffaloes

“We have a really deep team right now,” agreed McFarlane. “Everyone’s buying in, and everyone’s doing their part. That’s the whole part of why we’re winning. Because no matter how many minutes you’re playing, it’s just do your part — do your job every time you step on the ice.

“I mean … I think from the start, we were pretty deep. It’s just figuring out roles and stuff. But I think as everyone figured out their role on the team, everyone started to buy in. And kind of at the start of the playoffs is when everything really started to click.”

Enough so that they’ve worked themselves into this shot at winning the Telus Cup title.

Advertisement 5

Article content

It would be the Buffs’ second national banner scoring gold and bragging rights since way back in 1989.

“The guys are excited, and they’ve been just executing pretty well,” added Harrison. “They look pretty good in practice. So I think we’re very excited and ready to get going. They’re probably itching to play a game because we’ve been practicing for a little while.”

“We’re gonna have ups and downs for sure in this tournament, so it’s just really about sticking together and keeping an even keel,” added Green. “Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low. Just keep going do your job, and we’ll be fine.”

LOOSE PUCKS

The Canadian Elite Hockey League named Buffaloes goaltender Kael Svenson to its first all-star team, following his stellar ride to the Telus Cup. The Calgarian posted a 15-3 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in the regular season and then sizzled in the playoffs with a 10-2 mark, a sub-.200 GAA and a .950 save percentage … The CEHL also saluted Buffs forward Caleb Matthews as the Pacific Player of the Year, after he tallied 29 goals and 93 points in 47 games this season … The gold-medal final next Sunday will be broadcast live nationally (TSN, 2 p.m.). The semifinals are being live-streamed by Hockey Canada.

[email protected]

X: @ToddSaelhofPM

Article content