Minto Cup Preview: Calgary Mounties

Alberta Runner Up: Calgary Mountaineers

Regular Season: 7-7-1 (3rd)

Playoffs: 6-6 (lost in final)

It was a shaky start for the Mountaineers as they tried to navigate a few offensive personnel changes and find chemistry, but once it clicked things started to roll for the boys from Calgary. Following an 0-4-1 stretch to kick off the campaign, the Mountaineers would go 7-3 down the stretch of the regular season and set themselves up with another showdown with the long-time cross-town rival Raiders. A team that had loaded up a bit at the deadline and was pushing for a spot at the contenders table.

Coming to the forefront in that series was their character, will power and resiliency as the Mountaineers went down 2-1 and 3-2 in the best-of-seven Alberta semi before ultimately prevailing in games 6 and 7 to secure their place in the Minto Cup field. It would have been so easy for the Mountaineers to fold and become disillusioned in that series, especially after Game #3 where they had full control and blew a 6-3 lead late. The coaching staff also made the difficult decision to switch goaltenders following Game #2 going to the much younger Justin Melnyk after the Raiders had scored several goals from well out early in the series. It was a decision that helped swing things back in the Mountaineers direction and one that deserves a tip of the cap because those are always delicate situations. Especially after starter Trace Stewart had a breakout season. In the end the Mountaineers were able to prevail and move on to play the defending RMLL champion Miners where they fought back twice in the best-of-five final before losing a third period lead in a tight deciding fifth game last Friday night at Bill Hunter.

This team has battled through as much as anyone to get to this point and has improved all season long. A testament to Cody Hawkins and Travis Getz who lead the way on the Calgary bench. Now they find themselves at the big dance as the underdogs and having to do something they've done all season...keep fighting.

The Mountaineers strength without question relies in between the restraining lines and their transition game. Reis Bower, Mason McQuiggin, Mattias Flammenspeck and the Cook brothers drive a high percentage of their chances. If they are going to be in games one of the most important factors is going to be their ability to transition up high off their defense and get the ball up floor on odd man breaks. Forcing turnovers with pressure up high was something they really started having success within the Miners series and it's going to need to continue into next week.

Offensively the Mountaineers will be led by Lukas Olsson, Riley Isaacs, and Davis Dame. The veteran duo in their final year of Junior eligibility will obviously be motivated to go out in style in their swan song and each excels finishing around the net. Where the Mountaineers often run into trouble is that aside from Olsson they don't have a lot of outside shooting and it allows teams to pack in their defense making it very difficult for them to generate quality looks in the middle of the floor. Which is why it's so vital for them to excel in transition to supplement their offense.

On the opposite side of the floor the Calgary side can be aggressive and force teams into mistakes, especially in reverse transition. The defense switches and communicates well with good lateral mobility and doesn't get beat across the top often. Despite being a bit under sized, the Mountaineers excel when their back gate is dictating the style of game, and often play in the image of their Head Coach.

There are a lot of unknowns heading into this tournament but one thing I do know is that if anyone thinks they'll be able to just roll over the Mountaineers they'll be sadly mistaken. Too much buy in and belief in that locker room for that. And it also goes without saying the Justin Melnyk/Trace Stewart tandem in net will have to be sharp if they hope to send someone home early.

The Mountaineers will begin their fifth Minto Cup journey Sunday night against the Adanacs. 

For more information check out and @TheMintoCup

By: Muhammad Jomha

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