Atom As are all right
Bay Arena team having tremendous season
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.
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
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.