Rookies lead veteran IcePak team to Atlantics

Christopher Cameron
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Newfoundland champions prevail after disappointment a year ago

LEWISPORTE – In sport teams try to leave the past behind and focus on the next game or task at hand, but for the Central IcePak they carried a loss in March 2013 forward to this season.

Central IcePak goalie Noah Weir stares down Tri Pen Osprey shooter Cass Warren during game five of their NLMMHL semifinal series, which the IcePak won 8-3 to qualify for the league championship series, where they faced the defending champion Western Kings. Next week they will be participating in the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship at the Wellness Centre as the Newfoundland representative after defeating Western Kings in the league final. 

Tied 3-3 in their 2013 NLMMHL final series with the Western Kings, the IcePak lost in Game 7. Obviously disappointed by their loss they didn’t want to dwell too much on it, but head coach Robert Canning said that carrying the loss forward to this season was important to show how close they were and give them the motivation to get back to the league final to win it.

“It definitely was and we talked about our goals at the beginning of the year and I never let the boys forget how tough that loss was,” he said. “You try to keep it a little bit fresh in their mind in terms of how close they were and how tough to win our league is. For the boys to keep it fresh in their mind was part of our strategy.”

This season they defeated Western 4-1 in their best-of-seven series to become the 2014 Newfoundland representative at the Atlantic Major Midget Hockey Championship next week at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. Jordan Maher, 16, led the team in scoring in the playoffs with 10 goals and 21 points in 10 games, while 15-year-old Adam Dawe was second in the NLMMHL playoff scoring race with nine goals and 16 points in 10 games.

Between the pipes Curtis Barrett (5-1) had two shutouts in six games, while posting a 1.89 GAA. His fellow goaltender and NLMMHL goalie of the year, Noah Weir, was 3-1 with a 3.12 GAA in five games.

“We had what I consider a veteran team this year and a lot of these guys lost to the team that we beat in the final, the Western Kings, last year in Game 7, so for these guys they were so close last year,” said Canning. “To come back and have to play the same team again, which was a really tough series, it was very special for a lot of the guys.”

With the team not winning in 2013 they will be rookies to playing at Atlantics, at the midget level at least. Canning said a number of the players went to peewee AAA and bantam AAA Atlantics so they have an idea what to expect.

“That was an issue (being at a major event like Atlantics for the first time) especially for the guys that went in peewee,” he said. “They were surprised – so that’s something we have discussed. We also have quite a few guys that have played at the Atlantic Challenge Cup, so they’ve played at that level as well.”

Another benefit for the IcePak is that they have played the Weeks Major Midgets (host) and Halifax McDonalds (N.S. representative) before.

“We’ve played these guys and we’ve won games and lost really close games,” said Canning.

“I think the guys know we’re in the mix of things here, so I think that tends to relax them a little bit.”

The team will travel to New Glasgow by flying to Halifax before busing the remainder of the way once in Nova Scotia. Canning said the decision to fly, the more costly route instead of driving, was made to keep it simple.

“Travelling by plane or bus wouldn’t have been too big of a deal because the guys don’t get too tired from long trips,” he said. “With the sheer size of our province the guys are used to five- to seven-hour bus trips to get to our games and then having to play. I think being there too early might actually hurt us, so we decided getting in a day early would be best for us.”

On Thursday, April 3, the IcePak open the tournament against the Saint John Vitos (N.B. representative). Canning said winning their provincial championship was a major highlight, but hopes the best has yet to come.

“We’re always adjusting, but our goal was to make Atlantics and do well, so winning the league was a high point for us,” he said. “By us having that goal at the beginning of the year I’m hoping we haven’t plateaued and that we’re going to continue to get better.”

 

Atlantics schedule

Thursday, April 3

1 p.m. Halifax (N.S.) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)

4 p.m. Central (N.L.) vs. Saint John (N.B.)

7:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies

8 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)

Friday, April 4

10 a.m. Saint John (N.B.) vs. Halifax (N.S.)

1:30 p.m.  Weeks (host) vs. Central (N.L.) 

5 p.m. Saint John (N.B.) vs. Kensington (P.E.I.)

8 p.m. Weeks (host) vs. Halifax (N.S.)

Saturday, April 5

9 a.m. Kensington (P.E.I.) vs. Central (N.L.)

12:30 p.m.  Weeks (host) vs. Saint John (N.B.)

3:30 p.m. Central (N.L.) vs. Halifax (N.S.)

Sunday, April 6

1 p.m. Gold Medal Game  

Organizations: Pictou County Wellness Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Kensington, Saint John New Glasgow Nova Scotia

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