CORNER BROOK Angus Head is happy to see his team in top spot at the Christmas break, but he doesnât want his players to rest on their laurels.
The Colemans Western Kings, with Head at the helm, hold down sole possession of first place in the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League with 30 points on a record of 15 wins and three defeats heading into the Christmas break.
The Kings lead the defending champion St. Johnâs Privateers (11-2-1-2) by five points, but the townies have two games in hand.
âWe canât let up now,â Head said earlier this week.
âWeâre going to carry on with our practices both during the week and on the weekends because when we come back after Christmas right off the bat weâre going to play two games against the Privateers in their rink for two games which is going to be huge.â
The Kings have struggled the past couple of seasons to keep pace with the talented Privateers, but this year it appears the Kings have gone from pretenders to contenders under the watchful eye of coach Head.
According to Head, the players took a more serious approach to this season and made a solid commitment to being in better shape and getting an early start on preparations for this season.
He also feels having some leaders returning from last yearâs squad has helped give the new guys a sense of what it takes to not only compete at the major midget level, but to have some success along the journey.
He praised the effort of the veteran players who provided the leadership for the new faces in the mix, particularly offensive stars Jordan Kennedy, Ian Skinner and David Budgell, who are having stellar years in what will be their last crack at a major midget crown.
Of course, he is quite pleased to have Daniel McCarthy giving his team a chance to win every night since winning the No. 1 puckstopping job.
He believes his top players have paved the way for the rest of the squad.
âI have no complaints about the effort whatsoever,ââhe said. âWeâve battled through all kinds of adversity with injuries and everything else. I think the effort has been great.â
Fully aware of how important it is to get quality goaltending in a competitive league, Head knew McCarthy meant business this year from the moment he showed up in training camp.
The previous season the Kings went with a three-goalie system with the three goaltenders sharing the crease with nobody willing to claim the No. 1 spot.
âDaniel came back this year and he committed to getting himself in shape,ââhe said.
âHeâs lost some weight, heâs in the gym and Iâdonât think thereâs any question heâs claimed the No. 1 spot and heâs been told that, and itâs his until he decides to let it go.â
Head expects the Kings to play steady hockey after the break and he is anxious to have league-leading scorer Jordan Kennedy back in the fold.
Kennedy has been out with an upper body injury for a couple of weeks so Head is hoping he can use the break to get himself rested for the grind that awaits them heading down the stretch to the playoffs.
Looking ahead to January, he really doesnât want his players to do anything different and hopes they continue to bring a strong work ethic to the rink every weekend.
âLetâs not change anything that weâre doing,ââhe said.
âObviously, if itâs not broke letâs not try to fix it.â