AJ Sander is spending a week of spring break in Fort St. John and he couldn’t be happier.
The 2018 Richmond Sports Wall of Fame inductee will be adding another chapter to his long and decorated minor hockey coaching career by guiding the Richmond Ravens to the B.C. Midget Girls Championships. The tournament will run from March 21-24.
It’s the first time in Sander’s 37 years of coaching he is taking a team to the B.C. northeastern city yet the provincials are hardly new. This makes 11 straight years the Ravens have reached the provincial showcase event and there’s a good chance they will add to their nine podium finishes.
Richmond captured the Pacific Coast Amateur regular season title with a 15-3-2 record then added the playoff banner with a 2-1 victory over the North Shore last Friday at Minoru Arenas.
The championship game saw the Ravens rally from an early 1-0 deficit and once again rely on their stingy play to cap an unbeaten post-season run that included 3-0-1 record in round-robin action.
In 56 games, including tournament and exhibition play, Richmond has surrendered just 58 goals. That stellar defensive record includes only 16 in 20 regular season games and three in five playoff tilts.
“It’s definitely the backbone of our team,” said Sander. “But the nice thing is this team can score too with 196 goals.”
The Ravens are an excellent mix of veterans and young talent. Brynn Waisman has provided stellar goaltending while the five-player group on the blueline includes a pair of 17-year-olds — captain Aishreet Sander and assistant Erika Palmieri. They are joined by three rookies — Grace Wallace, Annalise Wong and Cailey Wong.
Up front, Julia Farkasch and Julia Proulx round out the leadership group. The forward contingent also includes: Sophia Buckberger, Meaghan Dillon, Emily Dragicevic, Olivia Northrup, Sydney Payment, Amanda Phillips, Jenna Proulx, Ashley Specht and Emma Tait.
Sander is joined behind the bench by Ravens alumni Natasha Steblin, Rachel Coulson and Tamara Wong. His wife — Satwant Bhatia-Sander — is the teams’s longtime trainer while TJ Sander is the manager.