Tri Pen Osprey fine-tune play to win when it counts

Ma­jor mid­get hockey team a mix of veteran play­ers, fresh new­com­ers

The Packet (Clarenville) - - SPORTS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON THE COM­PASS BAY ROBERTS, NL edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Last sea­son, the Tri Pen Osprey made it all the way to the league fi­nal, only to be swept by the St. John’s Maple Leafs in four straight games.

Now back to take an­other shot at supremacy in the New­found­land and Labrador Ma­jor Mid­get Hockey League (NLMMHL), the Osprey have all the in­gre­di­ents coach Chris Peach feels the team needs to con­tend.

“We have a good mix of veteran guys, guys who’ve been around for a cou­ple of years, and then we have a good fit of young guys that have come in and are start­ing to buy into what we as a coach­ing staff want — how we want to play,” said the first-year head coach, a St. John’s na­tive who spent a decade play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in Europe and North Amer­ica and went on to play and coach in pro­vin­cial se­nior hockey.

“It’s tak­ing a lit­tle bit of time, but I think for the most part we’re im­prov­ing ev­ery week­end. Ev­ery prac­tice we get bet­ter and ev­ery week­end we get bet­ter. That’s the ul­ti­mate goal at the end of the year — to be at the dance at the end of the year.”

After 14 games in the 2017-18 reg­u­lar sea­son, the Osprey have four reg­u­la­tion wins, two over­time wins and a pair of over­time losses, good for 18 points and a third place po­si­tion in the five-team league. They’re five points be­hind the Maple Leafs for sec­ond place and 11 ahead of the fourth-place East Coast Bliz­zard.

As is the case with all clubs in the NLMMHL, the Osprey said so long to a few play­ers in the off-sea­son. Last sea­son’s lead­ing scorer Liam Leonard of Clarenville moved on to the Mar­itime Ju­nior A Hockey League, as did goalie Tris­tan Gray from Bon­av­ista. And then there’s Kyle Pet­ten of Co­ley’s Point, now a mem­ber of the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads in the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League.

How­ever, there are sev­eral re­turn­ing play­ers set to pick up the slack this sea­son, in­clud­ing Clarenville na­tives Ja­cob Evans and Matthew Brown, as well as Luke and Matthew Ak­er­man, Kyle Tet­ford, Brae­don Carl­son, among oth­ers. Goal­tender Ri­ley Pet­ten of Clarke’s Beach, who split du­ties with Gray last sea­son, is also back for 2017-18.

“That’s a whole part of the process,” said Peach. “You’ll have your sec­ond or third-year guys that do stick around, and for­tu­nately enough for us this year, we’ve got a lit­tle bit of a veteran team. That helps with the mix of our first-year play­ers, rook­ies com­ing in and our veteran guys. It’s a good com­bi­na­tion to have both.”

Among the new play­ers on this year’s team, for­ward David Hibbs has shown some early prom­ise. The Bay Roberts na­tive, who played prep school hockey in Nova Sco­tia last sea­son, col­lected eight goals and five as­sists in the first 14 games to tie Luke Ak­er­man for the team lead in points with 13. Reilly Mayne of Ho­peall has also looked good, con­tribut­ing eight points in 14 games.

In the crease, Pet­ten is play­ing well so far, sport­ing a 3.00 goals-against-av­er­age and a .910 save per­cent­age. Fel­low goalie Matthew Chip­pett, get­ting his first bit of ac­tion with the Osprey this sea­son, has also played well. His GAA is 2.83 and he has a stel­lar save per­cent­age of .920. 14 games in, the pair split du­ties, with Pet­ten ap­pear­ing in eight games and Chip­pett six.

“For­tu­nately, we have a pretty good de­fence corps,” said Peach. “All of our D-men are qual­ity de­fence­men, so it’s nice to have that lux­ury. Then on our back end we’ve got Ri­ley Pet­ten. He’s a sec­ond-year goal­tender that to me is one of the best in the league. And then we’ve come across young Matthew Chip­pett out of Clarenville. He’s come in and done a fan­tas­tic job.”

Peach con­sid­ers his young group to be a fast team with good size up front. They take a de­fence-first ap­proach to hockey with the goal of gen­er­at­ing of­fen­sive through strong play in their own end.

The big story in the early go­ings of this sea­son has been the out­stand­ing play of the Western Kings in Cor­ner Brook. The team is un­de­feated through 14 games and won all of those con­tests in reg­u­la­tion. The Kings have thus far outscored op­po­nents by an as­tound­ing 74-24 mar­gin.

While the Osprey have lost all four games against the Kings, three of those losses came with only a two-goal mar­gin. In their most re­cent en­counter Oct. 15, a 4-2 win for the Kings, the Osprey led by a 2-1 score early in the sec­ond pe­riod.

“They have kind of set the bar now for the rest of the league,” said Peach. “We know they’re the team to beat right now. We have matched up pretty well with them. We haven’t beat them yet, but you know what? The sea­son is still young. We have a lot to learn yet … And I think come the end of the sea­son, we’ll be right there. You don’t have to win right now. You have to win in Fe­bru­ary and March. That’s what we’re gun­ning for.”

The team plays most home games at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, though there are a few sched­uled for the Danny Clear Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Har­bour Grace as well. They’ll be in Bay Roberts this Satur­day night, Oct. 28, to face the Cen­tral Ice Pak and will play them again the next morn­ing in Har­bour Grace.

“We’ve got some great sup­port from the com­mu­nity,” Peach said. “Ma­jor mid­get hockey, it’s a good prod­uct. It’s the best kids on the is­land at that 15-16-year-old age group.”

TWIT­TER PHOTO

For­ward Reilly Mayne from Ho­peall is among the first-year play­ers mak­ing an early im­pres­sion this sea­son with the Tri Pen Osprey.

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