Three teams with the best chances to win the U15 Prep Western Championships
The Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) will kick off its U15 playoffs this week. Many of the top ranked ‘08 Canadian teams will be in action, including No. 2 Northern Alberta Xtreme, No. 6 Calgary Edge School and No. 8 RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna.
Northern Alberta Xtreme enters as favorites to win
Back on October 2nd, Northern Alberta made its way to No. 2 in the WHH Rankings; a spot they have consistently held since. Not to mention, they finished in first place following the regular season among the 17 teams in the league. The top 12 teams advanced to the playoffs, and NAX is still in a prime position to carry its success into the playoffs.
Northern Alberta finished the regular season with a 28-1-1 record, with only two teams able to end up in the win column against them. A 5-4 loss to RINK Kelowna and a 4-3 shootout loss to Edge School were the only blemishes on an otherwise stellar run of play. Statistically, Alberta finished first in most categories well above its counterparts. Following the final games of the regular season, the Xtreme led the division in wins (28), points (81), goal differential (plus-141), penalty-kill percentage (93.9), goals scored (193) and fewest goals against (52).
What will surprise most people is that NAX only had one skater among the Top 10 scorers in the league. Tucker Tullikopf registered 22 goals and 55 points to lead his squad. Other top contributors were Daxon Rudolph with 17 goals and 50 points from the blue line and Nolan Stewart (22G, 24A). The most dangerous thing that stands out about Northern Alberta is its team depth. Browsing their roster, all but one player has surpassed 10 or more points.
In net, teams will be tasked with trying to solve the dynamic tandem of Parker Snell and Taylor Raynard. Snell finished first among all goaltenders, unbeaten in 15 starts, with a 1.95 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, as well as four shutouts. Raynard finished third in the regular season with 13 wins, a 2.02 goals against and .911 save percentage, with two shutouts. NAX will be a tough out in the playoffs largely due to these two in the crease.
Edge School has the talent to play spoiler
If Northern Alberta happens to falter at any point in its playoff run, look to one of the two teams who were able to get the best of them in the regular season. Edge School and Kelowna finished second behind NAX in the regular season, despite Alberta finishing with 20 more points in the standings.
Finishing with a 22-6-2 record, Edge has been battle tested not only within the CSSHL, but in tournament play such as the Rocky Mountain Classic. There, Edge was victorious among a field of highly competitive teams — including NAX — who was upset by the Airdrie Xtreme. One name that got constant recognition was that of Cruz Pavao, who led Edge in scoring not only at that tournament, but also in the CSSHL. He finished the season as the fifth-best scorer in the league, collecting 32 goals and 67 points. A special teams dynamo, he tallied 10 power-play points (7G, 3A) and four game-winning goals. The moment is never too big for him.
To counter NAX’s potent blue-line scoring from Rudolph, Edge can rely on Landon DuPont. DuPont scored 15 goals and 47 points across Edge School’s 30 league games. He is currently on a four-game point streak as well.
In total, Edge faced off against Alberta six times in the regular season. Edge took them to a shootout three times, winning once. Their three regulation losses came by two 5-2 scores and one 2-1 decision. They have shown they can skate with NAX, and have the confidence needed to take on a powerhouse team on the playoff stage.
Don’t count out RINK Kelowna
The team that finished third in the regular season standings, RINK Kelowna, also has the ability to make some noise come playoff time. Ending with a 22-5-1 record for league matchups, they were led by the consistent offense from Joe Iginla and goaltending from Steele Bass.
Iginla has really come into his own this season, sitting first among teammates with 37 goals and 65 points. Bass has been a constant source of solid goaltending all season long, skating to a 2.06 goals against and .916 save percentage in 14 games, of which he won 13. If both of these players show up, Kelowna will be a tough out for any opponent.
The team has also shown they have what it takes to win consistently, as they won 16 consecutive games from Oct. 2 to Nov. 10.