Junior Flyers look to get things going
The Trinity-Placentia Junior Flyers started the New Year on the right foot last week.
The team shutout the visiting Mount Pearl Wild 2-0 on Jan. 4 at the Trinity-Placentia Stadium in Whitbourne to earn a big two points. Dylan Cook and Connor Stevens provided the offence while Coady Edwards stopped all 22 of the shots he faced in goal.
For the Flyers, it was their first win in their last five games and improved their record to nine wins, nine losses and one shootout loss through 19 games. That left them with 19 points and fifth place in the eight-team St. John’s Junior Hockey League prior to action this past weekend.
The Flyers are lumped in with the CBN Junior Stars and the Southern Shore Breakers in the middle of the eight-team league. A single point separated them from the fourth place Stars, while they were leading the Breakers by four points.
“It’s pretty even there in the middle,” said Flyers coach Eugene Hutchings. “There is not much of a break between us.”
Consistency will be the big key for the team moving into the final nine games of the regular season. The team used 29 different players prior to the Christmas break, the second most in the league.
The team has used a lot of different line combinations, and there’s been a steep learning curve for some of the younger players.
“I used a lot of midget-aged players before Christmas,” said Hutchings. “I’d say they played more junior hockey then they played midget hockey.”
With hopes of a icing a consistent lineup in 2015, the coach is not shy about his expectations for the remaining nine games.
“I think we can win at least six of our next nine games,” Hutchings told The Compass last week. “That will give us a good run up to the playoffs.
“I’m hoping we’re going to get out of the first round of the playoffs.”
For this to happen, the coach will need “his leaders to be leaders” and for the team to start playing the way it did when the Flyers started the season with four wins in its first five games.
The Flyers looked to continue building second-half momentum last weekend in a pair of games with the Stars and the CBR Renegades (results were not known prior to deadline).
Jumpstarting the offence
If the Flyers want to make a jump in the standings, one way to do is to find a way to kickstart their offence.
The team has averaged a paltry 3.3 goals per game this season, which is good for 63 through 19 games. That puts them second from the bottom in the league.
“Getting the team back will be a big help to the offence,” said Hutchings.
Offensively, the team is led by Connor Stevens, who has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) on the season. He is followed by rookie and former provincial major midget standout Jordan Richards (14 pts) and Jordan Mercer (12 pts).
The Flyers have struggled defensively in the first half of the season. The team has allowed 85 goals through its first 19 games.
That is a 4.47 goals a game clip for a team looking to push itself into the top-4 of the St. John’s-based league.
Getting better for the Flyers means tightening up their defensive zone coverage and making sure that first breakout is spot on.
“Making that first breakout pass means you’re going to other way with the puck,” said Hutchings.
Getting strong in goal
When teams come back down to earth after a hot start, it is usually the back end where you see it the most.
That means the goaltending has slipped a little, along with the play in front of them. Still, the tandem of Coady Edwards and Conor Thompson has been solid for the Flyers. The pair have similar numbers through 19 games.
Edwards has a 5-6 record with a GAA of 4.23 and an .880 save percentage, while Thompson has a record of four wins and four losses with a 4.55 GAA and a .890 save percentage.
“I’d like to see them get back to the way they were playing at the beginning of the year,” said Hutchings. “We’ll be alright.”
The team is next in action Jan. 18 when they welcome the Northeast Celtics to the Trinity-Placentia Stadium in Whitbourne. The game is scheduled for an early afternoon start with puck drop set for 2:30 p.m.
Trinity Placentia Flyers defenceman Josh St. George (right) is checked by CBN Junior Stars forward Philip Russell in this Compass file photo.