By JAMES TUBB on January 27, 2024.
The South Alberta Hockey Academy’s U17 team is setting the tone and culture in their inaugural season.
The U17 men’s team was officially added to the local academy’s lineup a year ago, with the announcement made Jan. 30, 2023.
They’re over the halfway point of their first season with a record of 9-11-1. Head coach Torrin White says they’ve enjoyed getting the program started with a new wave of faces.
“We have an awesome group of kids and a great staff, so that makes every day a lot more fun and a lot more enjoyable,” White said. “We have an interesting league and an interesting division, so we have a lot of very tough games which is really good for our guys. I know all the parents on our team have had a ton of fun and a bunch of new billets, so it’s kind of cool bringing in an entire new team and all these new faces.”
While there are a lot of new faces with it being their first year as a program, there are some returning players that have donned the SAHA black and blue before. White says they have some kids who were either part of the High Performance Academy or spent time with the U18 team, which he says has made it easier to set the SAHA culture.
“We relied on those kids quite a bit to kind of help establish a bit of a culture and when we were recruiting, we just looked for some awesome kids who wanted to come and be part of the program,” White said. “Kids who have that emphasis on school, the community, teammates and billets, it has been a lot of fun and things have worked out well. But getting those guys who are familiar with the program and what we do is pretty important.”
White spent the last two seasons as assistant coach with SAHA’s U18 men’s team before being named the U17 head coach. He credits his assistant coaches, Anthony Ast and Jay Merkley, for making it a three-man system leading the new team.
“With those guys around, it makes it a lot more valuable for the kids and they get a little bit more out of it,” White said.
SAHA sits 20th in the standings with their record and 16th in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League rankings, which are based off tier performance in weekend showcases. White says their division is the toughest in the CSSHL, with teams from the Edge school and NAX leading the way, giving them a challenge every game.
He’s enjoyed seeing how they handle the challenge on the ice and how they’ve also adapted to the academy lifestyle to find their stride school wise. White says his favourite part has been seeing how players have grown and will continue to grow as the season progresses.
“All that really matters is how much they progress and how much better they are by the end of the year,” White said. “They’ve all bought into that pretty well.”
After being on the road to start 2024, SAHA’s U17 team returns to the Big Marble Go Centre this weekend for their first home games of the new year. They host OHA Edmonton for a three-game set of contests which started Friday night. They’ll face-off at 3:15 p.m. Saturday and wrap up the weekend with a 10:30 a.m. contest on Sunday.