The right call

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Carrying the AJHL trophy around the Camrose Arena, Mason Raymond was reassured he made the correct decision this year. Faced with the choice between joining the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs before this season or staying with the Camrose Kodiaks, Raymond deferred to Camrose coach Boris Rybalka.

Of course, Rybalka wanted to keep the Cochrane product and he reminded the 19-year-old he had some unfinished business in the junior-A loop.

A league MVP award, goal-scoring title and championship later, Raymond has to thank his coach for the advice.

"That was a good decision. I could have gone last year but I stuck around," Raymond said. "To have another year where I could dominate the league was pretty good for me.

"Coach Rybalka said you should always dominate if you can before moving on to the next level and it worked well for me."

Raymond is now on to the next goal: The Doyle Cup, which began last night in Surrey, B.C., as the Kodiaks started a best-of-seven series against the South Surrey Eagles of the BCHL.

The winner goes to Weyburn, Sask., for the Royal Bank Cup May 7-15.

Camrose wouldn't have had this chance without Raymond.

The Kodiaks were down 3-1 in the AJHL final against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons before roaring back.

In Game 6, the AJHL's regular-season MVP stepped up, scoring the overtime winner to bring the series to a deciding game, where the Kodiaks rode the momentum of a passionate home crowd to win 4-2.

"That goal will also stick in my mind," Raymond said. "Especially in their barn, to bring it back home, it was unbelievable."

Since his midget triple-A team, the UFA Bisons, got knocked out of the 2003 playoffs, Raymond has thought about what could have been.

He had a breakaway in a tied Game 5 against the Calgary Northstars but his shot rang off the post.

The 'Stars won the game, the series and the national championship. Now the Kodiaks appear ready to win a title and Raymond won't soon forget his overtime goal that spurned them on.

"They turned it over in the neutral zone, I crossed the line and dropped the puck to Chance Olsen," Raymond said.

"He took the shot and I grabbed the rebound.

"The puck went down the bottom of the faceoff circle. Don't ask me how I put it in there because it was such a sharp angle.

"I just turned and shot it six inches off the ice into the net.

"This is the biggest thing I've ever won, no doubt about it.

"I won a few series in bantam triple-A but it doesn't compare to this in terms of hype and excitement."

After this season, Raymond will take advantage of the scholarship waiting for him in Minnesota-Duluth.

But he's hardly thinking of that right now. If all goes as planned, the Kodiaks still have nearly a month of hockey left.

"We're riding a high right now," Raymond said.

"It feels like nothing can go wrong. Coming back from 3-1 to beat them, nothing could be better."

Every team needs a sparkplug and it appears Raymond provides that for the Kodiaks.

During the AJHL playoffs, he has 20 points in 15 games while contributing three game-winning goals.

In 12 wins, that's a pretty good percentage.

"I love for them to think I'm the go-to guy. I want to be the guy people look to," said Raymond.

"But none of that is possible without the 24 other guys in the room that help me achieve my goals."


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