South Peace News
The High Prairie Red Wings got their first taste of strong opposition as they competed at the inaugural national Russell Cup championship tournament in the Greater Metro Hockey League.
West Division champions the last three seasons, the Red Wings lost all three games in the four-team tournament March 30 to April 2 in Temiscaming, Quebec.
“It was great competition,” head coach Trent Meyaard says.
“Overall, it was a good experience to play the strong GMHL teams in the east.
“We played our hearts out and we’re proud of this team.”
High Prairie lost 9-3 to the host Titans in their first game March 30.
Hudson Chalifoux, Jaegar Lapointe and Kaden Cardinal scored for the Red Wings.
Up next, the Red Wings fell 6-3 to the South Division champion North York Renegades on March 31.
Dayton Shantz, Kaden Desjarlais and Braydan Auger scored for the Red Wings.
In their final game April 1, High Prairie lost 11-2 to the North Division champion Bradford Rattlers, who went on to win the championship.
Keegan Ferguson and Lapointe scored for the Red Wings.
“The teams we played just got tougher as we went on,” says Meyaard, who completed his second season as head coach.
However, he believes the Red Wings have the skill to compete with the top teams in the GMHL.
“If we played Temiscaming and North York in a series, we would win both,” Meyaard says.
“Hats off to the Rattlers, they have a phenomenal team.”
He says the experience was a game changer for the Red Wings.
“It was a real eye-opener for players who will return next season and for coaching staff and management,” Meyaard says.
“We now know what we have to do to become national champions.
“The work starts now for next season.”
Despite a disappointing result, he says players are ready to press forward.
“I noticed it lit a fire inside the players who will return,” Meyaard says,
“We have yet to be tested out west and going out east, the competition is great.
“They have very highly skilled and talented organizations I would love to play again.”
He notes the east divisions in Ontario and Quebec have been developed since the GMHL was created in 2006 while the West Division started in 2019.
“I expect the West to be more competitive next season,” Meyaard says.
GMHL executives and head coaches from the other teams were impressed with the Red Wings’ effort, he says.
“They said the Red Wings fit right in out east,” Meyaard says.
He also heard lots of positive comments from GMHL president Bob Russell, commissioner Ken Girard and Bill Newman, supervisor of GMHL television production.
“They applauded our organization and team,” Meyaard says.
“They and the coaches said we can compete and win on any given night.”
High Prairie fans may get an opportunity to see the best in the GMHL as the league plans to stage the national championship tournament in 2025 in the west.
“We will try to get it in High Prairie,” Meyaard says.
“We feel with the upcoming renovations at the Sports Palace and hopes of finding some key sponsors, we can host a tournament of this nature.”
Temiscaming put on a great show with a top-notch facility, he adds.
The GMHL does not have a bid process.