In the event that the Calgary North Stars’ top guns go silent during the Air Canada Cup national midget AAA championships in Sault Ste. Marie, coach Clint Armstrong takes solace in the fact he has other weapons at his disposal.
In fact, balance is the word Armstrong uses to describe his team and he pointed to the contributions by some of his secondary players as proof that the Stars are more than just a one-line team.
The Stars are one of six teams competing in the round-robin tournament scheduled for April 21-27 in the Sault and will represent the Pacific Region.
During the regular season, Calgary was led by the likes of forwards Ryan Armstrong (23-34-57 in 36 games) and Jay Beagle (20-24-44) but during the playoffs, four other players topped the team in scoring.
They included Justin St. Louis with seven goals and 16 points in 12 games, Tyler Gotto with four goals and 12 points in 12 games, Tyler Swanson with six goals and 11 points in 13 games and Jesse Smyke with five goals and 11 points in 13 games.
“When it came time for the playoffs, the opposing teams covered our first line very closely,” said Armstrong, whose team finished with a 24-7-5 record during play in the Alberta Midget Hockey League this season. “I like the fact that other lines stepped it up and gave us the kind of production we needed.”
In fact, Armstrong said the strength of his team this season has been the goaltending of Troy Bisson and the balanced scoring he_s received from his entire lineup. Bisson finished the regular season with an 11-4-5 record with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage and has received the bulk of the workload in the playoffs.
“I think we’re really balanced and we’ve got good goaltending, a strong defence and good forwards,” he said.
Defensively, the Stars are led by Matt Robinson, who Armstrong says is their most skilled rearguard and by Gotto, a nifty offensive-defenceman.
But for as deep and balanced as the North Stars are, Armstrong said they’ve prospered all season from their disciplined play. The North Stars beat Sherwood Park 3-1 in the best-of-five AMHL final and they are now gunning for a national title.
“The best way to describe us is discipline and hard working,” Armstrong said.
“We’re not overly big but we have some quick guys and we play well as a team.”
While Armstrong expects his team to seriously challenge for the title, he said stiff opposition should come from Saskatchewan and their representative, Yorkton Harvest.
“It’ll be tough, that’s for sure,” Armstrong said. “We’ve got to work hard and stay disciplined. We know what Saskatchewan teams are like. We played some of them at the Mac’s Major Midget International Tournament this season and they’re big and physical so I’m sure they will be pretty good.”
”As a rule, Saskatchewan is always strong and part of that is because they can draw from all over the province whereas we’re limited to a certain geographical area.”