Ryan Roche of Corner Brook will suit up with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Under-15 male hockey team participating in the 2013 Atlantic Challenge Cup this weekend in Moncton.
— Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
CORNER BROOK Being responsible in both ends of the rink is something a coach relishes in a young hockey player.
Ryan Roche of Corner Brook apparently has no problem living up to such a billing.
Roche, son of Scott and Lori of Corner Brook, will suit up with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Under-15 male hockey team participating in the 2013 Atlantic Challenge Cup this weekend in Moncton. A member of the provincial Under-14 male hockey team that participated in the 2012 tournament, Roche is the only player from western Newfoundland to crack the roster.
Coach Scott Gordon was impressed with Roche at the team’s initial training camp when he realized he was a solid two-way hockey player with grit and speed on his side.
“He can play an offensive game, but he still has good defensive awareness,” coach Gordon said Wednesday of Roche’s pedigree.
Coach Gordon is still mulling over line combinations for the showcase of budding hockey talent in the Atlantic provinces, but he feels comfortable knowing Roche can fit into any role he throws at the young forward whether it’s an assignment on the top two lines to produce offence or jump in on the third line and play a shutdown role against the opposing team’s players.
It’s his ability to play a number of roles that coach Gordon believes makes him a valuable addition to the roster. The provincial Under-15 team is focused on winning gold at the Atlantic Challenge Cup, but the event carries a much bigger punch on the lives of the players. The core group of players heading to Moncton will undoubtedly challenge for a spot on the provincial team that will represent the province at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Coach Gordon said the journey to Moncton is a stepping stone for the players who want to experience the Canada Games in two years. The coaching staff plans on keeping systems simple at this stage of their development, but obviously all players have to be on the same page and Gordon has no fears about Roche at this point.
“He seems to adjust to stuff pretty quick. He’s inquisitive and he’s open to learning and constructive criticism, and I think that will help him go a long way in the game,” he said.
“He’s not somebody you have to force to play. He’s a guy you can depend on,” he added.
Coach Gordon, a St. John’s native, said it’s realistic to believe the team can compete for gold in Moncton and if he didn’t think so there would be no point in all hands putting in so much time and effort to be prepared for the challenge. The players will be fighting to win gold, but coach Gordon insists the players will be trying to impress the right people because they want to be around when the final team for Canada Games is picked.
Another gathering of the top players in the U15 age group is scheduled for St. John’s in November with more players expected to be invited for a tryout so it’s showtime for Roche and company.
“Right now all of these guys are in the running,” he said. “So, we want to see what the boys are going to do on the stage this weekend.”
Roche had one of the best experiences of his life at the Atlantic Challenge Cup last year so he was motivated to get back at it again this year.
“Last year I didn’t really have a big role on the team and I didn’t mind it. I just loved the experience,” Roche said. “It was the best hockey experience I ever had in m life. It was just way more competitive up there than down here.”
Roche was motivated by the whole trip because he has become even more devoted to the game. He won’t rest on his laurels because he knows there are a lot of good players who want to knock him off the roster because Canada Games would be a wonderful experience for those who are fortunate to make the cut.
“Hockey is big for me now,” he said. ‘I’m at the gym every day and I got hockey most of the time every day of the week.”
He will be ready to accept any role coach Gordon gives him and he knows the only way to keep the coaching staff happy is to bring a strong work ethic to the rink.
“Work hard and battle. I’m not one of the top-line players so I won’t score many goals so I just have to work hard,” he said.
At the end of the day, he wants to see results of his hard labour.
“I just want to keep getting better,” he said.