Atom As are all right

Bay Arena team hav­ing tremen­dous sea­son

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BY TERRYROBERTS

The Bay Roberts Rovers atom A team — a tight-knit group of nine-and 10-year-olds — has been turn­ing heads across the prov­ince in re­cent months as it knocks off team af­ter team in league and tour­na­ment play.

Some ob­servers say it’s one of the strong­est teams at any level to rep­re­sent the Bay Arena Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion in quite some time. You only need ask the coaches and play­ers from teams such as Mount Pearl, St. John’s and Cor­ner Brook. All have fallen to the Rovers this sea­son.

Sure, the team is loaded with tal­ented young ath­letes. But it takes more than skill to win at such a high level, ex­plained head coach Bo Bennett.

He said the play­ers and par­ents are over­whelm­ingly com­mit­ted to the team, both on and off the ice, and there’s a sense of “ fam­ily” among the group.

He said it’s un­usual that a team from such a small as­so­ci­a­tion — some 300 play­ers — can com­pete and win against teams from as­so­ci­a­tions that are two and three times big­ger. And, get this, over half the team are firstyear atoms.

“ This is a true team that works to­wards a com­mon goal,” said Bennett. “That goal is the de­vel­op­ment of these young play­ers, win or lose.”

The Rovers led the way in the atom A divi­sion of the St. John’s-based Tri­Com Hockey League this sea­son, fin­ish­ing with just four losses in 30 games. The team elim­i­nated Mount Pearl 2-1 in a best-of-three semi-fi­nal match-up, tak­ing the se­ries with a 4-2 vic­tory at home on March 8. The team’s only fe­male, nine-year-old Shai­lynn Snow of Clarke’s Beach, scored twice for the Rovers in the se­ries clincher.

Bennett de­scribed Snow as the “top fe­male in the prov­ince for her age.” Her nick­name is “ Blue Ice” be­cause she makes her home in front of the op­pos­ing team’s net, bury­ing re­bounds at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“ She plays an in-your-face style,” said Bennett.

Game 3 was played be­fore a large crowd of vo­cal sup­port­ers at the Bay Arena, most of whom were dressed in red.

The Rovers were set to face the Con­cep­tion Bay Re­gional (CBR) Rene­gades of Kel­li­grews in the best-of-three fi­nal, which was ex­pected to con­clude over the week­end. Re­sults were not avail­able prior to the Com­pass dead­line.

The Rovers had not lost to CBR all sea­son, and were favoured to win it all.

The team is cer­tainly mak­ing a habit out of win­ning. On March 6, the Rovers cap­tured an atom A tour­na­ment in Cor­ner Brook that fea­tured the top atoms teams from around the prov­ince. The Rovers de­feated CBR 52 in the fi­nal.

Strong con­di­tion­ing

Op­pos­ing coaches have com­mented about the fit­ness level of the play­ers. Bennett at­tributes this to the play­ers’ in­volve­ment in power-skat­ing and shoot­ing camps, and reg­u­lar off-ice train­ing.

Bennett is a per­sonal trainer and takes a per­sonal in­ter­est in his play­ers’ con­di­tion­ing and prepa­ra­tion.

“ We don’t fade,” Bennett said, adding that his team is as fresh in the third pe­riod as they are in the first.

The team is led on the ice by

Bo Bennett

de­fence­man and cap­tain Zach­ery Bennett, the coach’s son. The team’s of­fence usu­ally starts with the younger Bennett, who av­er­aged about three points-per-game this sea­son and was among the league lead­ers in Tri-Com.

Zach­ery Bennett is a “dom­i­nant” player with a boom­ing slap shot, said the coach.

It also helps that the team’s No. 1 goal­tender, nine-year-old Ri­ley Pet­ten of Port de Grave, is a “phe­nom,” said Bo Bennett.

“He’s the best I’ve ever seen,” said the coach. “He can take hockey as far as he wants to take it.”

The team’s goal­tend­ing coach, Trevor Dixon, de­scribed Pet­ten as “very tech­ni­cally sound” for his age.

“He has some great nat­u­ral abil­ity,” said Dixon.

Ri­ley’s cousin, Kyle Pet­ten, is the team’s sec­ond lead­ing scorer and its top for­ward, said Bennett. He’s also a first-year atom.

Mean­while, an­other big test awaits the team dur­ing the Easter break, when the Rovers plays host to the al­lNew­found­land atom A cham­pi­onships from April 28-30.

“ We have been three years try­ing to get this tour­na­ment,” said Bennett.

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