Best Of The West

Jan 18, 2022 | John Klinck


U15 Yale Academy Captures John Reid Memorial Title

While some parts of Canada have pressed pause on youth hockey activities, there was no such thing out in Alberta this past weekend, as the John Reid Memorial displayed some elite U15 hockey.

The John Reid Memorial U15 AAA Hockey Tournament — as it is officially called — took place in St. Albert this past weekend, bringing 16 teams together for the historic event.

In its 43-year history, the John Reid Memorial has seen its fair share of future hockey stars, including the likes of Jonathan Toews, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Staal, and brothers Scott and Rob Niedermayer.

The members of Yale Academy will now have the honor of saying that they won the same tournament those aforementioned superstars once played in, as they emerged victorious at the end of the weekend.

Yale Academy beat Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna 6-2 in the championship game on Jan. 16 to secure the tournament title in convincing fashion.

Over the course of six games, Yale forward Braeden Cootes led the tournament in scoring, racking up 17 points. It’s a few points behind Toews’ tournament record of 30 in seven games, but it’s an impressive mark nonetheless.

Savin Virk finished with 10 points, as did defenseman Will Sharpe to lead all blueliners in tournament scoring. 

Aiden Eskit played in four of the six games between the pipes for the Lions, finishing with a 3-1 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. Nate Stevens appeared in two contests, recording a 1.00 goals-against and .943 save percentage.

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The Lions actually started the tournament with a loss, falling to Airdrie Xtreme 5-4 on Jan. 13.

It was clearly a wake-up call for the talented Yale Academy boys, as they really took out their frustrations on their next two opponents. In those two games on Jan. 14, Yale registered 17 total goals, as they beat the GPAC Golden Arrow Storm 9-1 and RHA Kelowna 8-1.

Jan. 15 featured the Lions’ quarterfinal and semifinal conquests; first up, they beat Delta Green 3-1. Sharpe scored the game’s first goal, before Iverson Graveline scored the go-ahead goal for Yale at the 16:37 mark of the third period. Stevens was between the pipes; he stopped 19 of the 20 shots sent his way.

In the semifinals, Yale Academy had their way with the host St. Albert Sabres. Cootes scored first for Yale, before adding two in the third period for a hat trick. Sharpe scored two goals, as well, while Eskit stopped 16 of the 17 shots the Sabres could muster at the other end.

The finals were a rematch with RHA Kelowna, and even having one of the former superstars behind the bench wasn’t enough for them to solve the Lions. Jerome Iginla’s RHA squad once again fell to Yale, with Cootes leading the way with three assists.

Cootes was presented with the Heart And Hustle Award after the contest, while Virk, who had a goal and an assist in the final, was given game MVP honors. 

Eskit stopped 21 shots in the final win.

The Lions are used to winning; in Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) play, they are 14-1-1 on the season. In a talented U15 Prep division. However, they have plenty of challengers, as the Lions currently check in at No. 4 in the league rankings.

In CSSHL play, Virk leads the team in scoring, with 37 point in 16 games. Cootes is one point behind with 36, while Grant Reid has 31. Sharpe is leading all the Lions’ defensemen with 24 points. 

Eskit is a perfect 9-0-0 in league play; he has a 1.66 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in those crease appearances.

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