Diverging paths in junior hockey
Flyers improve, Stars struggle in 2010-11
The Trinity Placentia Junior Flyers and the Conception Bay North Junior Stars practically traded places in the 2010-11 season of the St. John’s Junior Hockey League.
The Stars, who were the top team in the Avalon division a year ago, struggled mightily this season, losing coach Eddie Russell halfway through the year and placing last in the division with a 6-21-1 record. The Bay Roberts team was quickly dispatched in its first-round playoff series against the St. John’s Junior Caps, losing all four games by wide margins.
In contrast, the Junior Flyers flourished. After winning a mere three games in its inaugural season, the team bounced back with a heavily revamped lineup to post an 18-8-2 record, good enough for first place in the Avalon division.
“ We had some good draft picks, and a couple of trades we made got us some overagers back, so we had a much stronger team this year,” said coach Eugene Hutchings.
Amongst those important additions were Darrin Wilkins and Mason Reid, who both finished in the top-10 in points for the league. Wilkins and forward Paul Hutchings came to the team this season after spending last year playing junior hockey in Ontario, while Reed was picked up in a trade with the Junior Stars.
Strong regular season play made the Flyers favourites to defeat the Southern Shore Junior Breakers in the first round of the playoffs. However, the Breakers played their way into a 3-1 series lead, and though the Flyers managed to bounce back to force a seventh game, the Breakers pulled through with a 9-4 victory.
“ I don’t know if we had a tough series,” said Hutchings. “ We had an unlucky series, because we outshot them 52-25 pretty well every game, but we came up against a very strong goaltender (Brian Ronayne) for the Shore.”
Hutchings believes the game seven atmosphere, which included a sellout crowd at the Whitbourne Stadium, affected the nerves of some of his players.
However, Hutchings said the loss hardly puts a damper on what has been a great year for the team. The Flyers will lose six players due to age, but Hutching said the core of the team will remain, and with a solid season under its belt, the team can improve next year.
“ My 20-year-olds next year are going to be that much more experienced, and I think they’re going to learn from this year, which is great,” said Hutchings, who added the fan support this season was been fantastic
The Junior Stars’ season was hampered by a lack of commitment from players, according to general manager Brain Hurley, who also took over behind the bench after Russell left the team.
“ We had about 10 or 11 players that were committed, and the rest weren’t,” said Hurley. “ It was no different before or after Eddie left. There was certainly no problem with Eddie — it was a problem with the kids we had there.”
The lack of commitment resulted in the Stars dressing a dozen players each game, leaving the team heavily disadvantaged playing opponents with a full bench.
Hurley looks forward to next year. There are a number of players from the AAA-midget team in Bay Robert eligible to join the Stars, though Hurley is unsure whether they will for sure. The Stars will also get to pick three times in the first nine selections of the upcoming draft.
“ We’re hoping to add some good talent next year to make us more competitive. We’re not losing any players ( locally).”
As for the coaching situation, Hurley said they will soon be advertising to hire a new coach. Some individuals have expressed interest, but Hurley said it’s wide open at this point.
Lee Newhook was one of the Trinity Placentia Junior Flyers representatives at the 2011 St. John’s Junior Hockey League All-Star Game. The Flyers had a great year in its second season of play, and hope to improve next year.