Sea­son about ex­pe­ri­ence for young Fly­ers

De­spite early strug­gles, coach sees team com­ing around

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Re­plac­ing a large num­ber of play­ers is tough for any team, es­pe­cially when that team is re­plac­ing sev­eral im­por­tant pieces.

It’s a learn­ing process, and it’s some­thing the Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Ju­nior Fly­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing early on in their St. John’s Ju­nior Hockey League sea­son.

The Fly­ers (1-13) lost a cadre of play­ers ei­ther to ag­ing out or to work com­mit­ments, and coach Eugene Hutch­ings has needed to roll in as many as 12 new play­ers into his lineup.

Th­ese 12 play­ers have in­cluded lead­ing scor­ers Jeremy Ni­cholas, Paul Hutch­ings and Darrin Wilkins, along with de­fence­man Cody Mac­Na­mara and goal­tender Matthew Power.

“It’s hard to re­place that many hockey play­ers,” said Hutch­ings.

It means as­sim­i­lat­ing a dozen or so new bod­ies into the of­fense, and learn­ing the sys­tem. Where the team would not have taken as much get­ting to know each other, now the early sea­son is about learn­ing how the new team­mates play, where they like to re­ceive the puck and vice versa.

It is be­cause of this that Hutch­ings has clas­si­fied this as a “re­build­ing year” for the club that went to the league semi­fi­nals last sea­son.

The Fly­ers started the sea­son drop­ping five of its first six games, with its only win so far a 6-4 vic­tory over the Celtics on Oct. 27.

In the midst of work­ing new play­ers into the lineup, the Fly­ers have also dealt with a num­ber of in­juries. How­ever, Hutch­ings has seen things start to come around. The team had been play­ing a bet­ter hockey as of late.

“I see us im­prov­ing ev­ery game,” said Hutch­ings.

The goal

With the Fly­ers

play­ing bet­ter hockey as of late, the team has set a goal for the rest of the sea­son. Hutch­ings said he would like to see them get back to the .500 mark.

“Af­ter Christ­mas, I can see us turn­ing around a lit­tle bit and im­prov­ing,” he said.

The Fly­ers are led by Pla­cen­tia na­tive Ryan Whit­tle, who has 11 points. Shoul­der­ing the scor­ing load has not fallen all on Whit­tle. There are more than a dozen play­ers who have each con­trib­uted for the team.

Hutch­ings said he has been im­pressed with the work put in by his for­wards in the early sea­son.

“Ev­ery time they go on the ice, I see them get­ting bet­ter.”

Hutch­ings said there have been games where the Fly­ers have been lead­ing head­ing into the third pe­riod, only to see his squad lose the lead.

Down four bod­ies due to in­juries, the Fly­ers have been forced to play short handed in some games.

“We just run out of legs,” the coach said.

How­ever, there is a sil­ver lin­ing. The ex­pe­ri­ence his young play­ers are get­ting in th­ese sit­u­a­tions will only help them in the fu­ture.

“I think we’ll be OK.”

Com­pass file photo

Trin­ity Pla­cen­tia Ju­nior Fly­ers goal­tender Cody Hann makes this save on CBN Ju­nior Stars for­ward Al­lan Dawe in pro­vin­cial ju­nior hockey league ac­tion at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts on Nov. 1 in this Com­pass file photo.

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