It’s never black and white as to how to choose the players for a team in the Alberta Elite Hockey League.
But Green and White will help the Bow Mark Oilers U18AAA.
“We had a three-games series and we called it the Bow Mark Cup,” said Oilers head coach Ryan Barrett. “I thought the boys did really well in wanting to win it.”
The Oilers were split into Team Green and Team White to make the squads playing in the cup. While Team White won the title with a 7-6 overtime win on Sept. 12 at the Pason Centennial Arena to take the best of three series in two games, a key component was seeing how the boys compete as Barrett has to trim roster this week.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better for me in terms of the competition aspect,” Barrett said on Sept. 13. “There were some tense moments in there and you get to see how players react when the chips are on the line – when you need to win a draw, block a shot, make a save…
“When you put that pressure and competition together it sometimes gives you a clear indication of some of the attributes a player might have.”
There were more than chips on the line, a spot on the roster was on the line.
“We will be down to our final roster next week,” Barrett said. “There are some guys that I definitely want to see more of.
“There were some very pleasant surprises. At the end of the day, I was kind of expecting those surprises. It was good… I was happy to have some affirmation on some of the guys."
No surprise, Barrett wasn’t about to share which players caught his eye publicly just a few days before cutdown.
However, he said forwards Adam Kilpatrick and Sam Callahan, both of who affiliated with Bow Mark last year, played well.
“Sam Callahan had a great series, I thought Kirkpatrick was unbelievable and our goaltending with (Daniel) Hauser was extremely effective," he said.
The Oilers are coming off a 17-12-3 season in 2019-20. They were swept in three games by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the division quarter-final in the team's first trip to the postseason.
One player who is nearly a lock to return is forward Liam Watkins. The 17-year-old had 13 goals and nine assists with the Oilers last year.
He said the 2020-21 camp and the Cup have been competitive.
“The competition has been really good,” Watkins said. “The Cup went really well. I think we are looking really strong for this year. We have a solid forward group and the D-men are looking strong as well.”
While the players have to follow COVID-19 protocols – getting dressed in the parking lot, for example – once the puck drop, that’s all forgotten.
“When I’m at the rink and I’m with my friends, I just kind of forget about COVID – just play hockey and have fun with my friends,” Watkins said.
Barrett picked up on the happy hockey vibe.
“The kids are told to wear a mask, they wear a mask, they do what they have to do, they have to follow the arrows,” Barrett said. “It’s impressive. Once they get on the ice, they play hockey.
“That’s the fun part. Everything gets forgotten once the game starts.”
The Oilers will start an exhibition season playing only teams in the South Division of the Alberta Major 18U League in October. Barrett said possibly by mid November, the South may take on some teams from the North.
Barrett said the team will be finalized this week.
“Our kids go to school full-time at the Comp, so we need to get down to a team, get those kids registered so parents can start making adjustments,” Barrett said.