COVID may dash national title hopes

High Prairie Red Wings player Keaton Auger, left, slaps the puck on the Enoch Northern Alberta Tomahawk net as teammate Harlan Noskey, right, gets into the play during Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League action Dec. 12 in High Prairie.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Hopes and dreams of the High Prairie Red Wings winning a national junior hockey championship may have been dashed.
The Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League announced on its website Jan. 3 that the league has paused play for the teams in the South Division and the North Division until Jan. 26 with rising concern for the Omnicron variant of COVID-19 in Ontario and Quebec.
However, the season continues as scheduled for the high-flying Red Wings and the West Division, with six teams in Alberta and one team in British Columbia.
Leading the West Division with an undefeated record of 24 wins and no losses and riding a 48-game winning season at the Christmas break, High Prairie is touted as a top contender for the national title.
Red Wings head coach Trent Meyaard says the national tournament is still being planned although it may be moved to Toronto from Temiscaming, Que. as first planned.
However, the Red Wings have first and foremost set their eyes on defending the West Division championship.
“We can’t worry about it being cancelled right now,” says Meyaard.
“Our goal is still to win the West Division, that’s our main focus now.”
Last summer, the GMHL released plans to host the first GMHL national championship tournament April 1-3.
However, it would be delayed as the GMHL plans to extend the regular season and the playoffs after the pause.
The Red Wings resumed play Jan. 7.
“We’re happy the West is still playing as of now,” Meyaard says in an email response Jan. 5.
“All arenas have done a great job to help mitigate the spread.”
“We test regularly and the players are loyal to stay home when they have symptoms.”
He trusts the Red Wings and the West Division teams can finish the regular season without a pause as High Prairie has eight games each scheduled in January and February and two games in March.
He says the Red Wings also follow health orders and protocol of the GMHL.
Member clubs of the GMHL have worked diligently to ensure the safest possible environment for league participants this season and will continue to carry forward that same commitment following the extended break, the league states in the COVID-19 announcement.

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