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Airdrie’s CFR Chemicals AAA Midget Bisons return to the Mac’s Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament to take on teams from near and far in hopes of coming home as the number one team this year.

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From December 27 to January 2, teams from across Alberta, Canada and around the world will compete in various arenas across Calgary in the tournament’s first return since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Bisons fortunately secured a spot in the competition as the host team, and head coach Brad Bourke said he believed the team had a good chance of winning, even given the quality of their competition this year.

“Our goal is to win. We’ve been a top-four team in the south all year, and that kind of stuck even in the top-six,” Bourke said.

“Any team can beat any team, which makes it really fun. It’s a really competitive league this year at the level in general. There’s not just one team…it’s impossible to beat,” he said.

“There are exciting teams, and all the pools will be strong enough.”

The team is hoping to settle a score with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who have proven to be a regular season stumbling block this year, Bourke said.

“We have faced them three times this year. We are fighting for the top spots here, and we have equaled them three times,” he said.

“It shows how close these teams are.”

The Northern Alberta Xtreme is also in the same pool.

“I would say they’re normally the best program in Edmonton that works,” Bourke said.

On December 30, the Bisons can test their mettle against a Hungarian U18 team at Max Bell Arena in Calgary.

“They kind of do a showcase night, and it’s kind of the highlight game of the day,” Bourke said.

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If the Bisons win their group, they can compete as finalists at the Scotiabank Saddledome for a shot at first place.

The team is certainly going in with the goal of winning the entire tournament, but Bourke said that won’t happen without a lot of effort.

“You can go 4-0 and give yourself a really good chance, or you can go 0-4. Even throughout the year we’ve played 20 games and our goal differential is minus 1,” said Bourke.

“The goals for and against us are so close, it makes every game super exciting,” he said.

“You never know what you get on an individual night, but anyone can beat anyone.”

Just having the opportunity to compete in the tournament again boosts morale, Bourke said.

“Generally, it feels like things are starting to get back to normal a little bit when it comes to the pandemic,” he said.

“It will be so exciting for the kids and the parents, and for everyone else in town.”