Step­ping up

Mark Hil­lier is headed to the ball hockey na­tion­als with Team NL.

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY DAVE KEARSEY [email protected]­ern­star.com Twit­ter: WS_S­port­sDesk

Speed is some­thing ball hockey coaches look for in a player when se­lect­ing the best to rep­re­sent the prov­ince on the na­tional stage so Tom Walsh didn’t have to spend a lot of time de­cid­ing Mark Hil­lier had what it takes to play at the elite level.

Hil­lier, an elite ice hockey player who will be suit­ing up for St. An­drew’s Col­lege in the fall, has earned a spot on the New­found­land and Labrador ball hockey team head­ing to Kitch­ener, Ont., next month for the na­tional 15U male ball hockey cham­pi­onship.

Walsh, a Bishop’s Falls na­tive who has called St. John’s home for the past four years, used a se­lec­tion camp back in the spring to pick 15 play­ers for the team and left five more open for the pro­vin­cial 15U ball hockey cham­pi­onships so he could have a look at the tal­ent pool avail­able to him.

Hil­lier was a force dur­ing the pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment, lead­ing Labrador West in scor­ing as the boys from the north bowed out in the semi­fi­nal round in a 5-4 over­time loss to a pesky Cen­tral squad.

There was a cer­tain “ex­plo­sive­ness” about Hil­lier that caught coach Walsh’s at­ten­tion when he was look­ing for guys to add to the ros­ter for the Kitch­ener jour­ney.

Hav­ing a group of guys who were quick on their feet is what Walsh was look­ing for when he as­sem­bled the ros­ter so Hil­lier seemed like a nat­u­ral fit af­ter he saw how he han­dled him­self in traf­fic.

“He was able to break him­self away from dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions or get to loose balls fairly quickly,” he said.

He was im­pressed with how Hil­lier was able to put up some points but still be able to find his team­mates when they were open. He be­lieves the Western Kings ice hockey star has a good IQ for ball hockey and he’s only go­ing to get bet­ter con­sid­er­ing he’s a rel­a­tively fresh face when it comes to ball hockey.

“He’s only go­ing to get smarter and wiser to the game of ball hockey as he gets more ex­pe­ri­ences,” he said.

Hil­lier is a busy man these days pre­par­ing for the ice hockey sea­son that will be here be­fore he knows it, a train­ing camp for the pro­vin­cial 16U male team next month also on his sched­ule, but he has no prob­lem adding a trip to Kitch­ener to his itin­er­ary.

“Play­ing against the best play­ers in Canada in ball hockey will be a great ex­pe­ri­ence for sure,” Hil­lier said.

Hil­lier was sur­prised he made the team, but he knew go­ing into the tour­na­ment there was a few spots open so he just fo­cused on play­ing hard ev­ery shift and let the coach­ing staff de­cide if he did enough to make it.

He’s ea­ger to see how he stacks up, but this trip will be a spe­cial one be­cause three guys from Labrador West — Brody Chat­man, Nick Sex­ton and Matt Ryan — also earned a spot on the team.

“I’ve been play­ing ice hockey with these guys most of my life so play­ing ball hockey with them is go­ing to be great too,” he said.

DAVE KEARSEY/THE WESTERN STAR

Mark Hil­lier has shown he can com­pete with the elite on the ice and now he’s go­ing to find out how he stacks up against the best ball hockey play­ers from coast to coast as a mem­ber of the pro­vin­cial 15U male ball hockey team play­ing at the 2017...

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