PAC Saints set to clinch North Division

They sit first in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League North Division with 50 points, and could secure their spot with three points in their remaining six games.

PAC Saints player Jesse Hiller guards the puck from Rohan Bobcats player Evan Cooke during a match in Stony Plain on Sunday in Stony Plain. The PAC Saints won 5-3. Evan Pretzer/Reporter/Examiner

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Everything is coming together at the right time for the Parkland Athletic Club Saints.

Wins over the Lloydminster Bobcats (5-3) and Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (4-1) over the past weekend moved the Saints to 24-2-2 on the year. They sit first in the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League North Division with 50 points, and could secure their spot with three points in their remaining six games.

The Saints have been offensively gifted all season long, leading the AMMHL with 133 goals for, but lately the defence has been getting the job done.

“At the start of the year we were scoring at will. Since Christmas it’s been a bit tighter across the league, so the scoring hasn’t been there as much. Our goaltending has been excellent … Over the last two months, both Levi (Hall) and Nick (Rondeau) have been lights out,” said Leonhardt.

They boast the fewest goals against in the league at 65, and both of their goaltenders are ranked in the top five for both goals against average and save percentage,

Levi hall holds a record of 12-1-1, and a league best .933 save percentage and 2.15 G.A.A. Nicholas Rondeau has an identical 12-1-1 record, and boasts a .917 save percentage with a 2.43 G.A.A.

“The most important thing we do is develop players, and sometimes coaches forget goaltenders are players too. We’re in the position right now where both of our guys are getting opportunities to play,” said Leonhardt. “We’ve got two guys that continue to push each other and get better.”

Having the top goaltending tandem in the league is an even bigger advantage given the nature of the Sutter Cup playoffs. The top eight teams from each conference make the playoffs and are split into two pools of four. Teams play everyone in their group in a round robin format, before the top two teams in each pool move on to the semi-finals. Both the semifinals and finals will be single elimination.

The gold and silver medal winners from the North Division will qualify for provincials along with the host club from Edmonton. In the South, the gold, silver, and bronze medal winning teams will qualify for provincials. With six games left in the season, the message from Leonhardt is simple. Finish strong.

“The tournament is an interesting entity. We’re used to it but it doesn’t always necessarily bring out the season-long best team. You have to be playing your best hockey at that time. Making sure we continue to peak as we get closer to that is going to be huge.”

Up next the Saints head on a three game road trip. They will head to Okotoks for a matchup with the Oilers (15-7-4) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., before stopping off in Calgary to take on the Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association Blackhawks (9-13-5) on Sunday at 4:45 p.m. The trip comes to a close with a game against the Knights of Columbus Centennials (0-26-0) on Feb, 15.

The club closes the year out on a three game home stand against the CAC Bulldogs on Feb. 23, the Centennials on March 2,, and the Grande Peace Storm on March 3.

“We’ve got players that are going to be playing at a higher level going forward. This is probably the strongest minor hockey team that this region has put out in a long time. It’s a great opportunity for people to come out and support some of these local kids that will be playing elsewhere next season,” said Leonhardt.

jothomas@postmedia.com

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