Ju­nior Fly­ers to build on last sea­son’s suc­cess

Whit­bourne club fell a game short of ad­vanc­ing to league fi­nal

The Compass - - Sports - editor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia I.J. Smith Home Hard­ware Fly­ers had a sold play­off run last sea­son, fall­ing a game short of ad­vanc­ing to the St. John’s Ju­nior Hockey League (SJJHL) cham­pi­onship se­ries.

The Ju­nior Fly­ers fell to the even­tual league cham­pi­ons, the South­ern Shore Break­ers, in Game 7 by a score of 5-4. The Break­ers notched the win­ner with 16 sec­onds re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion and man­aged to come back from a 3-1 se­ries deficit by win­ning three straight games.

Long-time Fly­ers coach Eu­gene Hutch­ings ul­ti­mately felt good about the team’s per­for­mance last sea­son, and with a lot of re­turn­ing play­ers in the lineup, he’s more than op­ti­mistic about what lies ahead for 2017-18.

“I think we had a very good year (last sea­son),” Hutch­ings told The Com­pass. “I think this year we’ll have an even bet­ter year, ac­tu­ally.”

While the team from Whit­bourne is with­out last sea­son’s lead­ing scor­ing Con­ner Stevens (now too old to play in the league), it still has some note­wor­thy fire­power.

Conal McNa­mara, a for­mer MVP of the pro­vin­cial ma­jor midget league, had a great first sea­son with the Fly­ers in 201617, fin­ish­ing sec­ond on the team in goals (16) and points (31) in the reg­u­lar sea­son and lead­ing the way with 14 points in the play­offs. Lyn­don Thorne, who was third on the team in goals (14) and points (30), is also back with the Fly­ers this sea­son.

In last month’s league draft, the Fly­ers picked up a good player from On­tario with the third over­all se­lec­tion, tak­ing Wil­liam Hickey. His brother, Daniel Hickey, plays in the SJJHL with the Con­cep­tion Bay North Moor Frost Ju­nior Stars.

“I thought Bay Roberts was go­ing to take this young fella Hickey there, but they didn’t,” the coach said. “So we’re very for­tu­nate to get him. He’s a good hockey player.”

The Fly­ers played two games to start the sea­son last month, los­ing 4-3 to the North­east Eagles Sept. 24 be­fore earn­ing their first win the next day in a 6-3 vic­tory over the Avalon Cap­i­tals. Hickey col­lected two goals and a pair of as­sists in those games. McNa­mara matched his new team­mate with two goals and added three helpers.

“We’re go­ing to have to play smart hockey and work hard,” Hutch­ings said. “We’re a blue col­lar team — al­ways have been.”

Hutch­ings ex­pects to see strong de­fen­sive play on the back end, with over­age player Jonathan Pil­grim — a 6’4”, 229 pound de­fence­man — and Jared Reme­dios lead­ing the way. The coach looks for­ward to see­ing more of Nova Sco­tia de­fender Nathan Le­drew, who only played four reg­u­lar sea­son games in 2016-17 but con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to last sea­son’s play­off run.

“We’re pretty well off on de­fence,” said Hutch­ings.

Third-year goalie Chris Smith ap­peared in only five reg­u­lar sea­son games last year, but he car­ried the team in the play­offs, ap­pear­ing in all 11 games. Smith posted a 6-4 win-loss record in the play­offs and had a save per­cent­age of .912. Hutch­ings con­firmed he’d be their num­ber one goal­tender to start the sea­son, with Adam March serv­ing as Smith’s backup.

While he’s not an­tic­i­pat­ing to see the team at the top of reg­u­lar sea­son stand­ings in 2017-18, the coach fully ex­pects the Fly­ers to be com­pet­i­tive through­out the year and ready to chal­lenge op­po­nents come play­off time.

“I think we’re go­ing to have a very good sea­son, and when the play­offs come … any­thing can hap­pen in the play­offs.”

Fol­low­ing an­other game on the road, the Fly­ers were sched­uled to play their home opener Oct. 8 against the Break­ers.

I think we’re go­ing to have a very good sea­son, and when the play­offs come … any­thing can hap­pen in the play­offs.

— Eu­gene Hutch­ings

FILE PHOTO BY ROBERT GREE­LEY

The Trin­ity-Pla­cen­tia Ju­nior Fly­ers will count on sec­ond-year player Conal McNa­mara to pro­vide lots of of­fence for the team this sea­son.

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