The elite of Alberta ball hockey are set to ascend on the city of Calgary this upcoming weekend.
Forty-nine teams, all told, will be vying for 7 gold medals, and a shot at representing Alberta in next year's National Tournament. The massive tournament features 37 men's teams spread out over four tiers, and 12 women's team covering three tiers. 96 games will be played within 6 different arenas, beginning at 6 pm on Friday night, and concluding just over 48 hours later.
Women's Tier 1 features the defending Provincial Tier 1 Champs, the Edmonton Ducks. Their opponents will be the Red Light, also from Edmonton, and Calgary United. United won gold two tournaments ago. This division will feature a round-robin that sees each team playing each other team twice to determine the final standings. Playoffs will jump right to a one-game, 1st vs 2nd, winner-take-all.
The Women's Tier 2 will have four teams competing in a three-game round-robin to determine seeding for playoffs, in which everyone qualifies. 1st will play 4th, and 2nd vs 3rd to decide the championship game. The four teams are split evenly between Calgary and Edmonton with the Tune Squad and Vipers hailing from Cowtown, while the Bad News Beers and Cherry Pickers call Edmonton home.
Tier 3 is made up of five teams, including last year's Tier 2 gold medal winners, the Edmonton Asylum. Joining the Asylum from Edmonton will be the Stilettos and the Storm. While Calgary will be represented by the Dumpling Chase and Elite Pumas. This division will have a mini 2-game round robin, after which the 4th and 5th place teams will play in a quarter-final match up. The winner of that game will then take on the 1st place team in the semi-finals. 2nd will play 3rd in the other semi-final.
Over on the Men's side, Tier 1 is heavily represented by former champions. Edmonton Top Whale, who have won the last two gold medals return, along with the Calgary Phantoms (winners in 2016 & 2011) and the Calgary Pitbulls (2012). The two-time defending National Champions, Edmonton Savages are also in attendance, they won three-straight Provincial golds between 2013-2015. Rounding out the tier are the Edmonton Nighthawks and the Calgary Generals. This pool features a 3-game round robin with the top 4 qualifying for semi-finals.
Tier 2 consists of seven teams, with one making the trip down from Grand Prairie (Cobras), two representing the host city of Calgary (Stars and Show Ponies), and four coming in from Edmonton (Team Pending, Cobras, Walruses and Bar South). While we will have a first-time Tier 2 champion (last year gold was claimed by CGY Baby Ducks), three of the teams have already struck gold in Tier 3. The Edmonton Cobras were Tier 3 Provincial Champ back in 2014, the Calgary Stars followed that up by winning in 2015, while Bar South picked up their gold medals in 2017. The format for this tier will be a 2-game round robin which will lead into a quarter-finals featuring a 1st place bye (2v7, 3v6, 4v5). Lowest seed remaining will then take on the 1-seed in the semi-finals.
Tier 3 and 4 both feature 12 teams split into 3 pools of 4. A 3-game round robin will determine the top 2 finishers in each pool, who will then advance to the playoffs. The top 2 teams overall will receive byes to the semi-finals.
The Tier 3 Pool A is made up of the Calgary Spartans, Edmonton Blackouts (Sportsdome), Edmonton Killer Bees (BHE), and Fort MacMurray Vullets. Pool B has two teams out of Calgary (the Blazers and Unsung Heroes) as well as the Edmonton Reapers (BHE) winner's of the 2011 Tier 3 Provincial Championship, and finally the Edmonton Soliders (BHE). The final pool (C) will see the Calgary Rude Boys, Calgary Vipers, Edmonton Rush (BHE) and Medicine Hat Rebels battle it out.
Tier 4 Pool A will be made up of the Evolution 2 and Schwifty Business out of Calgary. As well as Edmonton's 7C's (BHE) and Knowlton Gnashers (SD). Pool B has the Marauders and Team Energy from Calgary, along with the Silver Kings (BHE) and Wolfpack (SD)...both from Edmonton. Pool C, again features two teams from Calgary and two from Edmonton. The Royals and Rink Rats are from the host city, while the Canadians and Team Ferda make their way south from Edmonton, both out of BHE.
Best of luck to all the participants in this years provincial tournament! Enjoy the weekend!