Ryan Gillam is shown in this undated photo. — Star file photo
CORNER BROOK Angus Head likes the direction his hockey club is headed in, but he insists his boys will have to be better in their own end of the rink if they want to win a championship.
Head will guide the Colemans Western Kings into battle this week at the 2nd annual East Coast IceJam Hockey Tournament being staged at the BMO Centre in Halifax. The tournament is one of a handful of showcase events the Kings, as well as the other four teams in the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League, participate in on an annual basis to guage their development as a group.
A few weeks away from competitive hockey, the Kings will test their mettle against 20 major midget hockey franchises in Atlantic Canada in preparation for the stretch drive on the provincial scene.
The Kings had an impressive showing at the annual Monctonian tournament back in November losing all three games by one goal. Coach Head is hoping the Kings can build of the solid showing in Moncton by winning a couple of games in Halifax.
“We did really well up there. We lost three games by one goal and we’re basically playing the same level of hockey in Halifax,” Head said of the Monctonian venture.“So, hopefully it’s now about seeing if we can improve on what we did at the Monctonian and get ready for the playoffs that’s the goal.”
The King had been scheduled to catch the ferry across the Gulf on the late crossing Tuesday night, but that plan went awry when Marine Atlantic opted to cancel the boat because of high winds due to yet another winter storm blast in the province. The team is expected to catch early crossing today with hopes of being ready to play one preliminary game Thursday and two more on Friday.
Coach Head said he likes the way his team has been able to produce offence, but he has concerns about the effort in their own end of the rink.
“We’ve been weak in our own end. The biggest problem has been getting the puck out of our own end of the rink,” Head said. “Offensively we’ve been fine once we get out so that’s what we’ve been working on ... a regrouping thing where we get the puck out quick and then carry that over into the playoffs.”
Kings defenceman Ryan Gillam agrees wholeheartedly with coach Head’s thoughts on the team at this stage of the season.
Gillam won a championship with the Kings last year with the team playing solid hockey in both ends of the rink in dethroning the might St. John’s Privateers. He has a better understanding of the philosophy that defence wins championships having experienced it himself so he hopes all hands will buy into the concept with the playoff drive just around the corner.
“In our end of the rink is where we need the most rink,” Gillam said. “We need to do a lot more work there and then we will be OK. We have to make sure everybody has their man and make good passes things like that.”
Playing against elite teams on the mainland has been a challenge for provincial major midget teams for years, but Gillam believes the effort shown by the team in Moncton is reason to be optimistic about where the team is going.
“I think we deserved better, but I still think we played really good overall,” he said.