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A galaxy of AAA stars

Top hockey talent struts stuff at Iceplex Saturday

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Over 100 of the top AAA male hockey players in Winnipeg will take the ice at the MTS Iceplex on Saturday at Hockey Winnipeg's annual AAA All-Star day.

The day will include three games at the three age-group levels represented along with skills competitions. There were 38 players selected to compete in each of the three games.

The bantam II (age 13) game will start the day at 10 a.m. followed at 12:30 p.m. by the bantam I (age 14) game and the city midget game (ages 15 and 16) at 3 p.m.

Players who have played in this event who have gone on to play for Team Canada juniors and the professional ranks include Jonathan Toews and Cody Eakin.

"There's more to being an all-star than just statistics, it's about how to be a team player and respect for the game and all its stakeholders," said Russ Cassidy, vice-president of Winnipeg AAA Hockey.

"There's lots of intangibles that come along with getting to the level of the world juniors, they're not just good hockey players. They're good young men, they're good citizens, they're good teammates. There's a lot that goes into making those players and those teams. An event like our All-Star Day is an introduction to that kind of environment."

Jackson Keane, son of former Manitoba Moose captain and three-time Stanley Cup winner Mike Keane, will play for the Bantam I West all-star team representing the Winnipeg Monarchs.

"It's an honour to be playing among the best players in the league and I just want to put on a good show for everyone who is going to come out and watch," said Keane, 14, a Grade 9 student at St. Paul's High School. He has 10 goals and 14 assists so far this season. "When you hear some of the names who have played here before, it feels really good to be part of that.

"I don't really think of it as pressure, it's fun to be part of (a hockey family like that). I want to play just like the way he (Mike) played."

Goaltender Ryan Brown made the jump from high school hockey last season to the AAA all-star level this season.

First all-star selection

Brown, who played for the Garden City Fighting Gophers in the Winnipeg High School Hockey League after he was cut by the Hawks last season, said this is his first all-star selection.

He will represent the Winnipeg Hawks as a member of Team West in the city midget all-star game.

"I played high school last year, I think it helped me get better, but I worked really hard in the off-season," said Brown, 16, who has a 2.60 goals against average.

He said he worked extensively in the summer with goaltender coaches Brent Zelenewich and Gord Woodhall to help him make it to the AAA level.

Each game Saturday will be preceded by a skills competition and a relay challenge followed by outstanding player awards.

The bantam II skills competition preliminary round will begin at 9 a.m. with the bantam II skills preliminary round starting at 11:15 a.m. The city midget skills competition preliminary round will begin at 1:45 p.m.

The AAA All-Star Day will use two ice surfaces at the MTS Iceplex with the games being held at the Winnipeg Free Press rink.

Don McIntosh, president of Hockey Winnipeg, said a special raffle of a set of tickets for a Winnipeg Jets hockey game will take place at the all-star day. Proceeds from the raffle will go to the Dianne Woods Memorial Player Assistance Fund.

The fund, which has already accumulated about $13,000, was set up in honour of former Hockey Winnipeg executive director Dianne Woods, who died suddenly last year. The fund is designated to assist minor hockey players in the city whose families are facing financial difficulty.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 13, 2012 C4

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