Pee­wee Ice set to begin play­offs

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The Tri Pen pee­wee AAA Ice are headed to the pro­vin­cial league play­offs af­ter fin­ish­ing the regular sea­son with a record of nine wins, 15 losses and two ties. That put the Ice in third place with 20 points head­ing into last week­end’s twogame set with Tri Com (re­sults were not known prior to dead­line). Although the team can’t catch Tri Com in the stand­ings, last week­end served as a warmup for the first round of the play­offs that will see Tri Pen meet Tri Com in the semi­fi­nals.

The Tri Pen pee­wee AAA Ice are right where they want to be.

With a record of nine wins, 15 losses and two ties, the team is the third of five teams in the New­found­land and Labrador Pee­wee AAA league just prior to the last week­end of the regular sea­son.

That sets the team up for a firstround play­off matchup with the ri­val Tri Com.

“We’re very pleased with the progress,” said coach Marty Gre­gory. “We’ve been tight with them all year.”

The Ice hold a head- to- head record of two losses and two ties with Tri Com. How­ever, in the pair of tie games Tri Pen held a four­goal ad­van­tage be­fore squandering the lead late in both con­tests.

“They could’ve easi ly been wins,” said Gre­gory.

The pee­wee pro­vin­cial league has been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for both coaches and play­ers. While the more ex­cep­tional tal­ent have played at the AAA level in the past, they have not done so in a league for­mat.

The sched­ule is dif­fer­ent, with hockey mostly ev­ery week­end in­stead of a se­lect few week­ends spread over the year lead­ing up to the pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment.

“It’s been baby steps for us,” said Gre­gory. “It has been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. We have re­ally en­joyed the league. We have noth­ing to com­plain about. “It’s very pro­fes­sional.” Tri Pen will get one more look at Tri Com be­fore the play­offs. The Ice were sched­uled to have a pair of games with Tri Com last week­end (re­sults were not known prior to dead­line).

On the same page

The feel­ing amongst Gre­gory and his staff — which also in­cludes Carl Do­hey and Gary Brushett — is that the Ice can give Tri Com a run for its money in the play­offs.

“It’s a clean slate and we think our team has im­proved enough that we can take a cou­ple of games off them,” the coach said.

The key to victory will be hav­ing the con­fi­dence they can com­pete with their op­po­nents and mak­ing sure play­ers are on the same page.

That means quick shifts and at­tack­ing their op­po­nents with all four lines.

“It gets ev­ery­one in­volved and into the game,” said Gre­gory. “We have to have ev­ery­one on the team mov­ing the same di­rec­tion.”

Goal­tend­ing key

Young goal­tenders are a case study in the pos­i­tive ef­fect con­fi­dence can have on a player’s game. Of­ten, they put so much pres­sure on them­selves to stop ev­ery puck that one or two quick goals can com­pletely de­stroy their mo­men­tum and shat­ter that con­fi­dence.

The same can be said for the Ice goal­tenders. They were un­aware of the cal­iber of shooter they’d be fac­ing in the new league, but they’ve started to come around since the Christ­mas break.

“They’re con­fi­dence is get­ting bet­ter and their un­der­stand­ing their role,” said Gre­gory.

Coaches learn too

In the first year of any league, it is not just the play­ers who are learn­ing on the fly. Coaches are also learn­ing as they go.

“We’ve learned a lot this sea­son,” said Gre­gory of him­self, Do­hey and Brushett.

The coach cited the abil­ity to turn to other bench bosses in the re­gion and the main­land for ad­vice as a big help.

With re­gards to the Ice staff, it helps that all three coaches can iden­tify the same is­sues on the ice and are “re­al­is­tic and with their eyes on the prize.”

“What we see , we try to fix the next prac­tice,” said Gre­gory. “The team gets bet­ter be­cause of it. The 50 prac­tices are a god­send.”

The play­off teams have a bye-week this week be­fore start­ing the first round of the league play­offs Feb. 14-15.

Compass file photo

Tri Pen pee­wee AAA Ice for­ward Mark Davis (left) bat­tles a Tri Com player along the boards dur­ing pro­vin­cial pee­wee AAA ac­tion at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Har­bour Grace ear­lier this sea­son. The Ice and Tri Com are set for a first-round play­off matchup when the sec­ond sea­son kicks off Feb. 14-15.

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