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