Bitterly cold weather doesn't dampen enthusiasm for Outdoor Classic

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Goaltender Joel Favreau watches as teammate Ethan Ironside (11) skates down the ice with the puck during the first game of the Flaman’s Outdoor Classic on Saturday at the Crescent Heights Arena. Favreau and Ironside were members of the AtoMc Green Rangers who fell 4-2 to the AtoMc Black Canadians 4-2.

 

Dave Leaderhouse

Herald Staff

It’s a good thing the organizers of the inaugural Flaman’s Outdoor Classic didn’t pick Sunday to hold the event as a cold front blew in overnight sending the mercury even lower than it was on Saturday.

As it turned out, the weather was crisp and tolerable for most of the activities on Saturday, but when the sun went down, conditions were at times uncomfortable.

“The weather limited the crowd a bit I guess,” said event co-chair Don Fauchoux. “But, it was history in the making and anybody here was a part of it.”

The idea for the event was first hatched a couple of years ago when the Crescent Heights Arena reconstructed their outdoor facility and built it to regulation size – 85 feet by 200 feet.

The success of the National Hockey League’s mid-winter classics got a local group thinking it could work in Prince Albert and after some discussions the plan moved forward to where it became a reality.

The day featured hockey from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and local celebrities took part in a number of activities to make the event a success.

Taking to the ice first were the Black Canadians and Green Rangers in an atom division contest and that was followed by a Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA tilt between the Prince Albert A&W Bears and Saskatoon Stars.

As luck would have it, these two clubs had just met in the semifinals of the Mac’s Invitational tournament in Calgary three weeks ago with Saskatoon prevailing 5-2. The Bears, however, took advantage of the atmosphere that was prevalent during the special day and skated to a 3-0 triumph.

“Redemption is good after the Mac’s” said Bears’ head coach Jeff Willoughby. “It was really special. The weather was a bit of a factor, but not as much as it could have been. The game went by extremely fast.”

“It was so good to be a part of the Outdoor Classic,” added Kaitlin Willoughby, the Bears’ captain who collected a pair of assists in being named the player of the game. “To get the “W” puts a nice end to it.”

Crystal Berube got the Bears on the board in the second period with Kelly Regnier and Tylor Lindsay sealing the victory with tallies late in the third period.

Jessica Vance and Sara Olson shared the netminding duties stopping 27 shots in total with Vance’s performance lowering her goals-against-average to 1.63 – third best in the league.

The win improves Prince   Albert’s record to 14-3-0-3 and solidifies their hold on second place in the standings. The Bears will be on the road next weekend when they travel to Notre Dame for a pair of games against the Hounds.

Another atom division game took centre stage following the girl’s match with the Green Canadians battling the Black Stars and that set the table for the finale that had the Prince Albert Mintos squaring off against the Saskatoon Blazers in a Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League clash.

The Mintos, who are in first place in the regular season standings, attracted a large crowd despite the bitterly cold conditions and they didn’t disappoint the fans as they skated to a 4-0 victory behind the 20-save performance of goaltender Tanner Burgardt.

Lance Yaremchuk, who leads the team in scoring, notched two more goals to spark the Mintos on Saturday with Adam Osczevski and Justin Boyer adding singles. The Duret brothers – Jason and Ryan – each had two assists to help lead the Mintos to their 23rd victory of the season.

“It’s where it all started before we got spoiled with covered rinks,” said Mintos’ assistant coach Todd Becker. “It was a little tough (because of the cold) because it wasn’t true when the puck came off the stick.”

“But, it was the same for both sides,” added Becker.

In addition to the hockey, there were local dignitaries such as Victoria Jurgens (Prince Albert Northcote MLA), Darryl Hickie (Prince Albert Carlton MLA), Greg Dionne (Prince Albert Mayor) and Mark McNeill and Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders taking part in opening ceremonies during the day. Donny Parenteau and Carole Ring sang the national anthem prior to the Midget AAA games and a host of volunteers spent a long day in the cold weather performing a number of duties that included gate admission, parking, goal judging, timekeeping and working in the penalty box.

There was also a large group from the Crescent Heights Arena providing canteen services throughout the day in addition to doing rink maintenance and providing the fans with a place to warm up during intermissions.

Despite the cool weather, making the event an annual affair certainly appears to be on the radar.

“We definitely learned lots of stuff,” noted Fauchoux. “It will be easier next time if there is a next time.”

It will be hard to duplicate the excitement and energy from Saturday, but it is certainly worth a try.

 

Organizations: Prince Albert, National Hockey League, Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League

Geographic location: Calgary, Saskatoon, Notre Dame

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