Midgets on the rise

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New season - Tristen Nixon carries the puck up the ice Saturday as his Stettler bantam A team opened its season with an exhibition game against Camrose.

JOHN MACNEIL

Independent editor

After struggling last season in the North Central Minor Hockey Association, the midget AA Stettler Legion Blues hope they’re poised for a turnaround.

Despite losing their top two scorers, twins Derek and Dylan Muhlbach to the junior B Stettler Lightning, the Blues believe they’re a more balanced team than last season.

“I definitely think we’re bigger,” said Blues coach Scott Schell. “We’re pretty close to the same speed. We’ve got more scoring going this year. I think we’re going to be a more well-rounded team, so I think it’s actually going to be a good season for us.”

The Blues, with a 3-16-1 record, finished in last place in the five-team league last season.

Stettler has seven returning players, including both goaltenders — Josh McCallum and Mack Schell. Also back are defenceman Steve Fletcher and forwards Kelly Coppock, Micah Croker, Logan Davidson and Michael Neumeier.

“Everyone else is new to the team,” said coach Schell.

“The new recruits that we got this year definitely increase our depth, so that makes a world of difference. So, really, the fact that we only have (seven) returning isn’t going to hurt us.”

“We have only one 15-year-old and that’s Jacob Hamel, and then the rest (of the newcomers) all moved up from either midget A or the midget B team.”

Hamel, a forward, played with the Stettler bantam AA last season.

He impressed the Blues during their tryouts.

“He’s got some good size to him, and he’s got a little bit of scoring touch,” Schell said.

The Blues begin their North Central league season Sunday when they host Ponoka in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at the Stettler Recreation Centre.

“Right now, I hate to boast, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t make a good run for the title this year — honestly,” Schell said. “As long as everyone shows up and gives it a good effort every game, I think we’re going to do just fine in the league.”

One of the biggest challenges for the Blues might be getting a consistent commitment from the players.

“That’s always the battle, especially at midget age, because they’ve got to battle between the job and school and girls,” Schell said with a chuckle.

“We’ll see. The season is still young.”

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