Turn­around kids

IcePak fin­ish sea­son on a high at provin­cials

The Beacon (Gander) - - Sports - BY MATT MOL­LOY SPE­CIAL TO THE ADVERTISER matthewl­mol­loy@ya­hoo.ca

When it was all said and done, the Cen­tral AAA Pee­wee IcePak com­pleted a turn­around for the ages.

On Sun­day at the Pat O’Reilly Memorial Arena in Bishop’s Falls, the IcePak de­feated the TriPen Ice 3-2 to fin­ish third at the Marco Provin­cial Pee­wee AAA Hockey Cham­pi­onships.

Adam Brace and Leo Adams scored se­cond-pe­riod pow­er­play goals for the IcePak, while Brace scored the even­tual game-win­ner in the third and the IcePak held off the Ice for a provin­cial third-place fin­ish.

IcePak head coach Tony Mul­rooney was ec­static with his team’s per­for­mance over the week­end, and couldn’t have been prouder of how his play­ers turned their sea­son around af­ter a very slow start.

“This is ab­so­lutely phenom­e­nal,” said the head coach. “We weren’t re­ally in the same league, re­ally, as teams like TriPen, and we’ve beaten them twice now in the past few months. We were be­ing de­feated by a lot of goals against these guys and now we’re right there with them. We’re a con­tender now, and it’s a huge fac­tor.”

The IcePak went 2-2 in the provin­cial round robin. Af­ter los­ing their opener to the TriCom Thun­der, the IcePak won its next two games over the Western Kings and TriPen Ice by re­spec­tive scores of 11-6 and 4-1. The IcePak lost its fi­nal round-robin con­test to the St. John’s Hit­men 6-0.

Ethan Simms picked up a hat trick in the win over Western and Aaron Hicks recorded a game-high four points.

Brace scored twice in the 4-1 win over the Ice and added an

as­sist, and Ian Wall added a trio of helpers.

Brace and Wall were among the top-10 tour­na­ment scores with five points each.

Mul­rooney has been see­ing an im­prove­ment in his team’s play since af­ter Christ­mas, and it re­sulted in a fan­tas­tic third­place fin­ish in the big­gest tour­na­ment of the year.

“It was a bit more study­ing, and I in­tro­duced some sys­tems,” said Mul­rooney, when asked what led to the turn­around. “With the game plan, we re­ally did a lot of work at prac­tice with our power play and penalty kill, but the big­gest thing was our sys­tems. The coaching staff in­tro­duced two sys­tems to the team, and we re­ally sized up the other teams, es­pe­cially the TriPen team, and see­ing what their sys­tem was so we could coun­ter­act.

“It was all about beat­ing it into their heads and prac­tic­ing it and prac­tic­ing it and prac­tic­ing it some more, and it paid off on the score­board.”

Even be­fore play­ing in the third-place game, Mul­rooney al­ready con­sid­ered provin­cials a mas­sive suc­cess.

Putting up a 2-2 record was huge, mak­ing it to the third­place game was huge, and then to come out on top, well, it just added ex­tra ic­ing to the prover­bial cake.

“This is ab­so­lutely huge,” said the proud head coach. “We never thought we would be in the bronze-medal game, re­al­is­ti­cally, so to win it is fan­tas­tic and I am so happy for the play­ers. And you look at the pop­u­la­tion of Cen­tral New­found­land com­pared to the ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gions of the other teams, and for us to be right there is great for Cen­tral New­found­land hockey. We have very strong tal­ent com­ing up…and the en­tire coaching staff feels a re­spon­si­bil­ity to teach these kids the game.”

Af­ter a thrilling end to provin­cials, and their sea­son in gen­eral, Mul­rooney is very op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of the AAA pee­wee pro­gram.

The league is de­vel­op­men­tal and ac­cord­ing to Mul­rooney, the AAA IcePak pro­gram is needed.

“There are sev­eral hockey play­ers here who are top play­ers in their re­spec­tive mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tions. We have one player from Glovertown, one from Tri­ton and a few from Fogo Is­land, and all of these as­so­ci­a­tions are pro­duc­ing one or two AAA play­ers,” said the head coach. “Ku­dos to those as­so­ci­a­tions for do­ing that, but these play­ers are not play­ing against or with com­pet­i­tive play­ers, and they need that to de­velop. The sac­ri­fice these par­ents are mak­ing is huge. Ev­ery Tues­day, we have peo­ple cross­ing the ferry for prac­tices, spend­ing the night so their kid can prac­tice, and we have par­ents trav­el­ling for hours just to make it to prac­tice. Ku­dos to the par­ents for do­ing that, and in or­der for us to con­tinue de­vel­op­ing top play­ers in Cen­tral New­found­land, we need that con­tin­ued ded­i­ca­tion.

“I’m sure some of names on the back of the jer­seys you’ve seen here this week­end, you’ll be see­ing a lot more of it when they turn 18 and 19.”

The Thun­der left Bishop’s Falls as provin­cial champs, de­feat­ing the Hit­men in the fi­nal 4-2.

PHO­TOS BY MATT MOL­LOY

Michael Can­ning of the Cen­tral IcePak car­ries the puck into the of­fen­sive zone dur­ing the IcePak’s fi­nal round-robin game against the St. John’s Hit­men.

Ian Wall of the Cen­tral IcePak blasts a slap shot past a St. John’s Ice­men de­fender dur­ing provin­cial round-robin ac­tion in Bishop’s Falls over the week­end.

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