CORNER BROOK The Colemans Western Kings will find out how they stack up against the top major midget hockey clubs in Atlantic Canada this weekend.
The Kings, top seed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League, will be one of 18 teams lacing up the skates at the East Coast Ice Jam Major Midget Hockey Tournament that gets underway today at the BMO Centre in Halifax, N.S.
The St. John’s Privateers and St. John’s Maple Leafs will also participate in the four-day tournament that wraps up Sunday with the playoff round.
Kings GM Leonard Smith said he went looking for a tournament for his team to play in after the annual major midget tournament held in Sherbrooke, Que. at this time of the year was cancelled. He found the East Coast Jam in his search so he made plans to have his charges attend this tournament. On an annual basis, the Kings travel to two tournaments that provide players with exposure — the Monctonian being the other annual tournament the Kings have participated in since Smith has been the general manager.
“To give the boys some exposure,” Smith said of the purpose behind the road trip.
Some of the top teams in Atlantic Canada the Kings squared off with in Moncton will be in the hunt for bragging rights, so Smith knows his team will have to work hard to win hockey games. The Kings had a rough time at the Monctonian this year, losing all three games with only one goal scored against some talented squads in the east.
“No question, we have to put the puck in the net,” Smith said Tuesday en route to Port aux Basques to catch the ferry to Nova Scotia. “If we don’t put the puck in the net you’re not going to win games. Good defence wins I know, but you still have to put the puck in the net.”
Kings leading scorer Jordan Kennedy won’t be making the trip with the team because of an upper body injury, but the team expects him to be back in full form at the end of the month when the Kings hit the road for a big weekend of provincial major midget hockey that will determine the standings for the playoffs.
Smith knows Kennedy has been a big cog in the machine, but he has been pleasantly surprised by the offensive punch of trio Neil Woolfrey, Jordan King and Ian Skinner with the team captain unavailable for duty. He said the team’s second offensive trio has collected a fair share of points, particularly in the two-game series against the Privateers last weekend despite two losses, so he is hoping that will continue.
“We’re expecting them to carry the load and when Kennedy gets back we’re going to be that much better,” he said.
He also hopes that Kennedy’s absence will motivate other players to take their game to the next level. He sees the present scenario as a good time for players to stake their claim on extra ice-time.
“That’s the name of the game ... if somebody goes down, somebody else got to step up, and that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “This trip isn’t all about winning obviously. It’s about your team gelling together, getting some exposure and preparing for the playoffs.”
The Kings will get its first test Thursday when they tangle with the Valley Wildcats 12:15 p.m. (Newfoundland time). They play two more round-robin games — Thursday 9:45 p.m. against the Cape Breton West Islanders and Friday 10 a.m. against Rothesay Netherwood — at the BMO Centre. Results from round-robin competition will determine seeding for the playoff round.