‘Built for speed’

Bay Arena pee­wee A tops in province-wide league

The Compass - - PORTHTE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

Bay Arena mi­nor hockey has a his­tory of pro­duc­ing qual­ity hockey teams.

Through 18 games in the in­au­gu­ral NL Pee­wee All-Star League, the Bay Arena A Rovers are be­com­ing an­other shin­ing ex­am­ple of that.

With a record of 12 wins, three losses and three ties, the Rovers sit atop the four-team league, which also features teams from Gan­der, Clarenville and Cor­ner Brook.

The lat­est stop for the teams came dur­ing the round-robin Mary Brown’s Pee­wee Tour­na­ment in Gan­der on Feb. 1-3. The cham­pi­onship was an ex­tra game for the Rovers.

Bay Arena would face off with each l eague team, notch­ing a record of two wins and a 4-4 tie with Gan­der, which gave the team a berth in the fi­nals.

In the fi­nals, the team would beat the host team 4-0 to take the cham­pi­onship.

“The tour­ney was good,” said head coach Bo Ben­nett. “It was the sec­ond year in a row we had been in the cham­pi­onship, and the sec­ond year that we played Gan­der.”

Ben­nett said the new league has been a “saviour” for his squad.

“Our ban­tam A team here has played three games this year, and two of those have been in-house against our midget Bs,” said Ben­nett. “With­out the league, we would be in the same boat.”

Up un­til Jan. 27, the Rovers have four of the top-five scor­ers in the league on its ros­ter.

First-year for­ward Kyle Pet­ten has been lights out, reg­is­ter­ing 23 goals and 11 as­sists to lead the league. Next are Zack Ben­nett and Daw­son Mercer, who each have 24 points. Liam Smith, from Cor­ner Brook, breaks up the Bay Arena scor­ing run with 21 points.

Shai­lyn Snow, the team’s only fe­male, has 19 points to round out the Top-5.

“The whole top line is lead­ing the league in scor­ing,” said Ben­nett. “All of our top line for­wards are first years.”

Early on, Bay Arena was dom­i­nat­ing their op­po­nents. But Ben­nett can see an im­prove­ment in the other teams.

“Scores are get­ting closer,” he said. “We hon­estly be­lieve that we’re really mak­ing the other teams stronger.”

Clarenville is the prime ex­am­ple of this. In weeks one and two, Bay Arena rolled over the Cari­bous with scores of 5-3 and 10-4. How­ever, the fol­low­ing two weeks saw Clarenville skate to 5-5 and 1-1 ties with the Rovers.

“We don’t give up many goals and we don’t give up many shots,” said Ben­nett.

To date, the Rovers have scored 68 times and al­lowed just 34 pucks into their net.

Po­lar op­po­sites

Ben­nett sees a dif­fer­ence in this year’s squad and the team he help guide to a divi­son B pro­vin­cial ti­tle last spring.

“We are the po­lar op­po­sites in size and tough­ness,” he said. “Our phys­i­cal strength is not the same.”

Last year’s team fea­tured big bod­ies in Ryan Pet­ten, Colin Par­sons, Mark Bar­rett and Noah Mercer, amongst oth­ers. They’ve since moved on to ban­tam.

Ben­nett and his coach­ing staff knew what to ex­pect when they picked the team ear­lier in the year.

It is es­sen­tially the same team from two years ago that picked up a sil­ver medal at the atom A pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment.

“We knew what we had from two years ago,” said Ben­nett. “This team is built for speed.”

Fill­ing a void

In los­ing Ryan Pet­ten, the team also lost its cap­tain. Fill­ing that void has been a num­ber of play­ers.

“Zack has really stepped up,” Ben­nett said.

Ben­nett had high praise for the work of two play­ers in par­tic­u­lar.

“Kyle Tet­ford has been really step­ping up,” said Ben­nett.

For the team, Tet­ford has been fill­ing what­ever role the team has asked of him.

“He’s huge on shot blocks. He just sac­ri­fices his body on ev­ery­thing,” said the coach.

The next player Ben­net calls the Mir­a­cle Boy.

“Matthew Breaker. He’s never played on an A or B team, just C teams … he’s play­ing on the A team and on the top line. So, that’s quite an ac­com­plish­ment,” he said.

Stay­ing home

Where last year the team trav­elled to, and won, the Joe La­mon­tagne Me­mo­rial tour­na­ment in Cole Har­bour, NS, this year the team is elect­ing to stay home.

The Bay Arena will be host­ing the best teams in the province when it hosts the pee­wee A di­vi­sion pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment dur­ing Easter week.

The team will be look­ing to avoid the same fate as it did two years ago when it dropped a heart­break­ing 21 over­time de­ci­sion to CBR.

“We know we’re in tough and we’re go­ing to pre­pare for the tour­na­ment,” said Ben­nett.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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