Ju­nior teams look­ing to right ship

Stars, Fly­ers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing early-sea­son woes

The Compass - - ORTHTE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

It’s about a third of the way through the 2012-13 St. John’s ju­nior hockey league cir­cuit and both the Con­cep­tion Bay North Ju­nior Stars and Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia Ju­nior Fly­ers are at the bot­tom of the pile in stand­ings.

With a record of two wins and five losses, the Bay Arena-based Ju­nior Stars have mus­tered only four points out of a pos­si­ble 14 and sit in sixth spot in the seven-team league. The team trails the fifth place CBR Rene­gades, who have six points.

In Whit­bourne, the Ju­nior Fly­ers have been able to man­age a sin­gle win this sea­son, while drop­ping six games.

Ju­nior Fly­ers head coach Eu­gene Hutch­ings chalked it up to a lineup that fea­tures three 18-year-olds. “That’s a lot of first-years,” he said. The Ju­nior Fly­ers are not lack­ing in the of­fence depart­ment.

The team re­turned all three of its lead­ing scor­ers from last year — Paul Hutch­ings, Dar­rin Wilkins and Jeremy Ni­cholas.

All three are in the top four scor­ing wise for the Fly­ers, with rookie Jonathon Oake fea­tur­ing enough on the score­sheet to fall in third be­hind Wilkins and Ni­cholas, with Paul fourth.

Where Eu­gene finds his great­est deficit is with his de­fence corps.

The team only has one se­nior de­fence­man on the point — Cody McNa­mara — and that has shown on the score­board.

“We are lack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on the back end,” he said.

Eu­gene has seen im­prove­ment in his blue­line play­ers from the be­gin- ning of the sea­son.

“They’re get­ting used to the speed of the game,” he said.

All of the youth on the back end might also be hav­ing a side ef­fect on the play of starter Matthew Power.

Af­ter post­ing a record of 11 wins and five losses last sea­son, Power has recorded just one win to go along with four losses this sea­son.

It is some­thing that is not lost on Eu­gene.

“I need Power to start step­ping up,” he said. “I need him to get a lit­tle con­fi­dence.”

Even with the abysmal start, Eu­gene be­lieves his team is go­ing to turn it around.

“The boys are say­ing, ‘don’t worry, we’re al­right,’” he said. “The team is pretty close. I don’t think playoffs are out of the ques­tion.” Youth­ful Stars Mean­while, the Ju­nior Stars are suf­fer­ing through a sea­son-long scor­ing drought. The team has man­aged to light the lamp 19 times over its first seven games.

The lack of scor­ing punch could be at­trib­uted to the avail­abil­ity of cap­tain Tyler Adams. Adams has been in and out of the lineup due to work com­mit­ments, but has still man­aged to net five points ( four goals and one as­sist) in two games.

The next two top scor­ers are rook­ies Cody Bat­ten and Bradley Bud­den, each with five points.

Be­sides a lack of scor­ing, head coach Rob But­ton said that sim­i­lar to the Ju­nior Fly­ers, his squad lacks ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We’re a young team, “he said. “We’re still learn­ing and get­ting used to each other.”

Be­cause of this, But­ton has his team play­ing a de­fen­sive-minded game. Ex­clud­ing last week­end’s ac­tion, the team has only al­lowed 37 goals. Only the St. John’s Ju­nior Caps (18) and the Avalon Ju­nior Cap­i­tals (23) have al­lowed fewer.

“We don’t have a lot of goal scor­ers, so we’ve been kind of play­ing a dump-and-chase game,” he said. “We’re play­ing a lit­tle bit of a de­fen­sive game.”

But­ton said he feels like the young play­ers are “ad­just­ing well” to the jump in com­pe­ti­tion.

“I’d say seven or eight of them are fresh out of midget.”

It’s been an learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for But­ton as well. Prior to this sea­son, the high­est level of hockey he had coached was midget.

“It’s what I was ex­pect­ing,” he said. “It’s a faster game, but I was pre­pared for that. I’m ad­just­ing and learn­ing.”

But­ton praised the vet­er­ans on the team for the i r “great lead­er­ship.”

He is not dis­cour­aged by the slow start of his team, ei­ther.

“It’s only the first month and I’m sure we’ll be right in the thick of (the playoffs),” he said.

Both teams are in ac­tion this week­end. The Ju­nior Stars wel­come the South­ern Shore Break­ers to the Bay Arena for a 7:15 p.m. tilt on Nov. 16, and then travel to the Jack Byrne Arena in Tor­bay for a matchup with the Ju­nior Celtics on Nov. 18 (5 p.m.).

The Fly­ers have one game, a Sun­day (Nov. 18) matchup with the Mount Pearl Ju­nior Wild at the Glacier. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

Ju­nior Fly­ers for­ward Dar­rin Wilkins (cen­tre) tries to move be­tween two South­ern Shore Break­ers de­fence­men dur­ing ac­tion at the Whit­bourne Sta­dium, Oct. 28. The Ju­nior Fly­ers are look­ing to im­prove as a team and climb out of the cel­lar in the St. John’s Ju­nior Hockey League.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

Con­cep­tion Bay North Ju­nior Stars goal­tender Conor Thomp­son bears down on the puck in front of him amid chaos when the Ju­nior Stars bat­tled the CBR Rene­gades, Oct. 26 at the Bay Arena in Bay Robers. The Ju­nior Stars will need more of­fence in or­der to get back into the play­off hunt.

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