Cava­liers re­peat as cham­pi­ons

Laval brings home AAA ball hockey ti­tle

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

Turn­ing the cham­pi­onship trick two years in a row is never an easy task.

They’re not catch­ing teams by sur­prise or com­ing in with a bit of the un­known on their side.

Other teams know what you have and who you’re bring­ing to the dance. Just ask the Laval Cava­liers.

Look­ing to re­peat as AAA male ball hockey champs, they made the ar­du­ous jour­ney to Flower’s Cove on the North­ern Penin­sula with eyes on de­fend­ing their ti­tle May 5-7 at Canon Richards Me­mo­rial Academy.

“This one was harder,” said coach Michael Gam­bin. “The boys will tell you it was harder on my nerves. Last year we kind of walk away with it sort of. It was never in doubt, but this year was tough.”

In the fi­nal, the Cava­liers found them­selves in a game. Af­ter jump­ing out to a 2-0 ad­van­tage, Laval sur­ren­dered a pair of goals and were bat­tling to get mo­men­tum back on their side.

In a sport where a power-play should re­sult in goal, the Cava­liers killed a pair of penal­ties be­fore Liam Shea scored to put his team up 3-2 with just over 10 min­utes re­main­ing.

“That was a very low score for ball hockey,” said Gam­bin.

Laval would hold on for the vic­tory and the lat­est of pro­vin­cial ban­ner des­tined for the school’s walls.

“It was our goal right from the very first prac­tice,” said the coach. “Ac­tu­ally, we were talk­ing about it com­ing home from Pil­ley’s Is­land last year. It was our goal to get an­other one.”

This time there was no loud out­burst of joy or ex­cite­ment. The play­ers and coaches solemnly went about cel­e­brat­ing.

“It was al­most like it was re­lief that the job was done,” said Gam­bin. “We put a lot of time and ef­fort into it.”

A hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment

When you’re play­ing the home team in the fi­nal, chances are things are not go­ing to be great for the vis­i­tors.

From the first mo­ment they step on the floor, they’re en­ter­ing a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment and should ex­pect to be met with re­sis­tance.

That’s ex­actly what the Cava­liers got from the bois­ter­ous Flower’s Cove fans. They wanted a pro­vin­cial ti­tle and they let the vis­i­tors hear about it.

“I was walk­ing down the hall­way af­ter the team had en­tered the gym and all you could hear was boos com­ing from the crowd as they walked in,” said Gam­bin.

A suc­cess­ful year

The ball hockey ban­ner is just an­other notch in the belt for the ath­letes at the school this year.

It rep­re­sents the third pro­vin­cial high school ban­ner for Laval this year and the fifth won the school has earned in the past two years.

In ad­di­tion to ball hockey, the Cava­liers have claimed ti­tles in soft­ball and soc­cer, all at the AAA level.

It’s not some­thing lost on Gam­bin, who coached two — soft­ball and ball hockey — of those teams. Re­tired ed­u­ca­tor Gord Pike was at the helm for the soc­cer vic­tory.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like it at the high school level,” said Gam­bin. “I told them this is some­thing you can look back on for a long, long time and be proud of.”

Laval has a dis­tinct ad­van­tage over most other schools. They have a solid ath­letic base to go along with the fact they can get ath­letes from their lower grades and get them into the ath­letic pro­gram ear­lier then Grade 10.

Coaches are able to build their pro­grams by get­ting ath­letes at an early age and in­still­ing the prin­ci­ples that will lead to fu­ture suc­cess.

It’s some­thing Laval is see­ing pay­off at the Grade 12 level ev­ery year, es­pe­cially this one.

“They get the ex­pe­ri­ence and they get to know my ex­pec­ta­tions and those of other coaches,” said Gam­bin. “They’ll see what it takes to win.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Laval Cava­liers male ball hockey team re­cently cap­tured their se­cond straight AAA ball hockey ti­tle with a 3-2 vic­tory over host Canon Richards Me­mo­rial Academy in Flower’s Cove on May 7. Mem­bers of the team are: front (l-r) — Joel Nash, Wil­liam Neville, Jor­dan Pomeroy and Liam Shea; back — Michael Leonard-Power, James Cul­leton, Justin Edi­son, Brent Hat­field, Michael Nash, An­drew Kelly, coach Michael Gam­bin, Larry Brewer, Kolton Green and coach Jono Ed­wards.

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