RSL rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence into Sil­ver Stick

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - JONATHON BRODIE

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

That’s the adage the Rideau St. Lawrence Kings ma­jor ban­tam team are liv­ing by as they get ready for the In­ter­na­tional Sil­ver Stick cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment, which starts Jan. 24 in Port Huron.

The Kings earned their spot when they won the fi­nale at the Pem­broke-hosted re­gional Sil­ver Stick tour­ney in Novem­ber.

RSL head coach Terry Gray said his team, “sneaked into the semi­fi­nal” at the Pem­broke tour­na­ment. They fin­ished the roundrobin with a 1-1-1 record, un­able to pull out wins in a cou­ple of games where, “we didn’t play our best,” added Gray.

Once they got into the tour­na­ment’s play­offs, said the coach, the re­turn­ing play­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ence from be­ing at the Sil­ver Stick last year took over.

Things still weren’t easy, though. The Kings won their semi­fi­nal in over­time. In the fi­nal they trailed by a goal with two min­utes left be­fore they found the back of the net twice within the lit­tle time re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion.

Although it’s not ex­actly the way RSL wanted to get into the In­ter­na­tional Sil­ver Stick tour­ney, it gave them a blue­print of what needs to get done to have any kind of suc­cess in Port Huron.

“We haven’t played like that (like in the round robin) again in the sea­son, which is good. We’ve been play­ing well since then,” said for­ward Ethan Wooller, who has 17 goals and 22 as­sists in 24 games this sea­son with the Kings.

This is the sec­ond straight year this AA Kings team, last sea­son as mi­nor ban­tams, earned a spot in the Sil­ver Stick cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment. RSL made it all they way to the In­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment’s semi­fi­nal last year be­fore their run ended. Get­ting back to the com­pe­ti­tion has al­ways been high up on the Kings list of po­ten­tial ac­com­plish­ments for this sea­son.

RSL had five play­ers move on to AAA this sea­son that played on last year’s team. The chem­istry has been there right from the start of the sea­son with all the new play­ers, said Gray.

The Kings haven’t played against any of their op­po­nents in the up­com­ing Sil­ver Stick com­pe­ti­tion. They ’ll start the tour­ney off against the San Diego Saints and then fol­low it up with the Howard Huskies and Port Huron Flags. RSL doesn’t know how po­tent their op­po­nents’ of­fence are or how much of a brick wall their de­fences will be. At the very least, RSL knows they have an edge over ev­ery­one else be­cause they’ve played at the top level of Sil­ver Stick be­fore and have been some­what suc­cess­ful.

“It’s one of those tour­na­ments where if you lose you’re al­most elim­i­nated. If you lose two games then you’re done. You have to com­pete and be ready to go all the time,” said Gray.

The ex­pec­ta­tions are some­what loose for RSL.

The Kings are, ob­vi­ously, go­ing into the Sil­ver Stick look­ing to win. They also have their eyes on go­ing up against top-end clubs from all over North Amer­ica, which should help them get ready for the HEO Mi­nor AA-A play­offs start­ing in early Fe­bru­ary.

RSL is cur­rently ranked third in the HEO with a 14-5-5 record and boast the sec­ond-most goals in the league. The Kings are also ranked fourth in all of On­tario, ac­cord­ing to MyHockey rank­ings, which tal­lies up a team’s reg­u­lar sea­son and tour­na­ment games.

“Just the will to want to com­pete has been there,” said Gray about this year’s team. “That’s pretty much what’s work­ing – the work ethic.”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Shown here are the Rideau St. Lawrence Kings ma­jor ban­tam team af­ter win­ning the re­gional Sil­ver Stick tour­na­ment in Pem­broke to earn a berth into the In­ter­na­tional Sil­ver Stick cham­pi­onship tour­ney, which starts Jan. 24 in Port Huron.

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