Defence comes first for Tri Pen bantam Ice
When the Tri Pen bantam Ice hit the ice, their goal is to defend for 200 feet.
That means when they do not have the puck, they are putting pressure on their opposition from one end of the rink to the other. It is a strategy that has helped the team to a record of 17 wins, three losses and two ties in the Newfoundland and Labrador Bantam AAA league.
Over those 22 games, the Ice have allowed just 32 goals, far and away the fewest number of goals amongst the league’s five teams.
“When we’re on the ice, all five guys are defending,” said coach Nelson Bennett. “We focus on the defence-first (approach) every game with the theme that goals will come. We approached that in the first game of the year and the last game we played.”
Defence in hockey, as it is in many sports, relies on the complete co-operation of all working parts. The forwards must work with the defencemen and viceversa.
If just one cog is out of sync with the rest, the machine fails and the result is a puck in the back of your net.
“We have five guys who come back in our zone, who are expected to come back in our zone and play D, block shots and get on the other side of the puck,” said Bennett. “The whole (group) works.”
Personnel on the ice dictates what the plan is for clearing the zone when the Ice get the chance. When some of the team’s more skilled players are involved, the game plan is defend and then attack at the nearest opportunity.
When other players are on the ice, that changes. The Ice aim to get the puck out of their end and force the opponent to try and beat their defence a second time.
Judging by the number of goals allowed through 22 games, this strategy has been more than successful.
Solid goaltending Helping the Ice in their defensive stance is the play of goaltenders Riley Petten and Tristan Gray. Looking at numbers, the pair are eerily similar.
Tri Pen bantam Ice goaltender Riley Petten watches the play in the corner during provincial bantam action in this Compass file photo.