STEPHENVILLE Stephenville Junior Jets coach Ron Dobbin believes every hockey team needs a burst of energy at times when a game reaches a lull.
Dobbin says his Central/West Junior Hockey League franchise has a player who provides that for the team.
“Brandon O’Neill is the burst of energy for the Jets,” coach Dobbin, a Corner Brook native, said Tuesday afternoon. “He is the first player to jump when you need a spark for the team.”
Dobbin believes O’Neill, a mobile defender who the coach says has no fear, will be a leader of the pack when the Jets open the junior hockey season in a two-game set with the Port aux Basques Mariners this weekend at the Stephenville Dome.
“He will definitely be a team leader this year and he brings his A game every time he plays,” coach Dobbin said.
O’Neill, a 19-year-old Stephenville native in his second season with the Jets, hopes his squad can improve on last season, which saw the team bow out in three-straight games to Mariners in the semifinal round last winter. He believes the Jets have struggled to win hockey games for a couple of years not because of a lack of effort, but because the team was facing a commitment issue.
“Not a lot of the players were committed last year and that’s what we’re trying to fix this year by getting more players committed to the team,” O’Neil said Wednesday. “I probably won’t miss a game all year.”
Son of Stephenville’s Paul and Debbie O’Neil, the mobile defender believes the Jets will be competitive this season as long as players are passionate about the game and the community they play for.
Having everybody on the same page with a common goal is what O’Neill hopes will be the case this year.
“So we can build chemistry as a team,” he said about the importance of players being committed for the long haul.
“If we have guys who aren’t going to be there then we have to keep filling them in and we’re not used to players that are going to end up playing.”
The Mariners have bolstered its roster with a handful of players from the now-defunct defending league champion Humber Valley Red Wings so O’Neill expects the gateway town to have a strong team again this year.
“They got a strong team this year so we’re going to have to play good defence,” he said. “Play our positions, keep to the basics and do everything right hopefully. Try to minimize all the mistakes on the turnovers because they capitalize on those.”
He has a clear message for his teammates this year.
“Play hard, play your best and hopefully we can get some wins,” he said.
A graduate of the Stephenville Minor Hockey Association program, O’Neill is eager for the curtain to fall on another season, which kicks off Saturday night with the Jets tangling with the Port aux Basques Mariners in the season opener 8 p.m. at the Stephenville Dome.
“I can’t wait to get on the ice,” he said. “I just love playing hockey. I can’t wait to play against the Mariners.”
“I just want to get on the ice and get the job done. Get out and do what I do best.”