There will be no playoff run for the peewee Stars in 2019.
In a decision made by the players themselves, the team’s season came to an unceremonious end when the squad finished its final regular season game — an 8-6 win in Camrose — on Feb. 9.
The reason has to do with changes made by Hockey Alberta this season in a pilot project that eliminated the zone playoff system to determine which teams can compete for a provincial championship.
As an initial step to revamping and standardizing the province’s tiering system, the peewee category was selected to test out the new qualification format that will see the champion of tiers one through four in each of Alberta’s six leagues — Northern Alberta Interlock, All Peace, Northeastern Alberta, Central Alberta Hockey League, Hockey Edmonton and Hockey Calgary — earn spots in the provincial tournament.
Additional spots will be given to the host team and a provision has been made for a wildcard entry, but no details were available on how that would be determined.
As a result of that change, Bashaw’s squad would lose the use of its top player — Brock Dawbin — but not because of his status as an overage player for the club.
Head coach Carman Meger explained the situation began at the start of the season.
“He is one of our two overage players and there is no doubt he can play well, but we needed them due to our shortage of players,” he said.
“Then after the tiering was done, we were informed we had to move up to tier 3 from tier 4 or else he couldn’t play. So reluctantly we did and were told the kids would be allowed to just play hockey from there.”
However, that came to an end when a Hockey Alberta email in late December outlined the options the team had when the season came to a close.
“We could play the rest of the season with him and then drop him in order to move onto the playoffs, or drop him immediately and continue on, or finish our season with the last game on the schedule,” Meger stated.
“As coaches, we told the players all of the options and left the decision up to them. They unanimously decided that they didn’t want to play without Brock.”
Along with those options came somewhat of a reason for the restriction — the fact that Dawbin was labelled as an ‘impact’ player — something that Meger doesn’t dispute.
“Brock certainly is a very skilled and talented player, but that isn’t to say other teams with overage players aren’t being impacted by those players being on the ice,” he said, adding those other players are not scoring as much as Dawbin.
In fact, league leading Fox Creek has three overage players and has not only scored the most goals this season at 183, but also has allowed the fewest against with just 38 (as of Feb. 15) with two games remaining.
Contrast that with Bashaw, whose season has done, having scored 148 — Dawbin as 71 of those — while allowing the fifth most goals in the league at 132.
“The kids have taken it quite well and are fine with the decision they made. They just didn’t want to play without their teammate,” Meger added.
Both the Northern Alberta Interlock league and Hockey Alberta were contacted for comment, but the Bashaw Star didn’t receive a response from either of organization at press time.