Canada Games boys return from Alberta with 1-2 record
Pressure the puck in all zones.
Pressure the puck in all zones.
That might be a good mantra for the Canada Games boys hockey team, according to head coach Jay Glass.
“We’re going to be working on our fore-check, our defensive-zone play, our neutral-zone play – i.e. the trap – and we’re going to be working on our specialty teams,” he said.
The need to improve these points became evident following the teams sojourn down to Wild Rose country, where the Yukon boys opened their first series of exhibition games against teams outside of Calgary over the weekend.
Team Yukon opened the string of games against an Okotoks bantam AAA team, followed by match-ups against two midget AA teams, from Okotoks and Foothills.
The Yukon won its opening bout 3-2 against the bantams, but fell 11-0 to the Okotoks midgets and 12-2 against the Foothills.
“The scores weren’t really the most important thing to us, it was just our ability to play older, better players and see how our guys can compete,” Glass said.
“You’re always a little bit down when you get beat fairly handily, but the boys understood Sunday…there were a lot of positive things,” Glass said. “Again, they stepped up a level. We have a lot of 14-year-olds and 13-year-olds, and when you’re in there against 17-year-olds, a lot of those boys deserve a lot of credit just for being out there.”
He pointed out that the Yukon Canada Games squad– which has an average age between 14-15-year-olds – has players as young as 13-years-old, who were up against 17-year-old midget players in the second two games.
“So we’re basically caught in the middle,” Glass said, adding that nerves played a factor.
“One hundred per cent nerves. That first bantam game we were nervous, but that team is closer to our age so we were able to overcome it, and then when we hit the first midget game against Okotoks, of course the kids were nervous. Can you imagine being 13-years-old and being in there against a team loaded with 16- and 17-year-olds in a full-contact sport?”
The second midget game, against the Foothills, the score was 2-1 after the first period, 5-2 after the second and could have been 4-4 after two, Glass pointed out.
“It’s just that they got a few breaks and we didn’t,” he said. “In the third period the wheels fell off for us. I think fatigue played a factor.
“We were pretty pleased with the first game and the third game.”
Size and strength set the Alberta clubs apart from the Yukoners.
“I thought we skated with them fairly well, but typically the older players are a little bit more organized and a little bit more calm with the puck,” Glass said.
Goaltending was a positive for the Yukon, Glass said of his three goaltenders, Nigel Sinclair-Eckert, Yougie Blackburn and Breyin Wiens.
“I was happy with our goaltending all weekend.”
The Yukon players also played well defensively in blocks, and able to follow the systems reasonably well, particularly for the club’s first set of games together, he added.
“On the downside, at times we lost focus; we need to work on our play in our own zone and we need to work on our neutral-zone trap, we’re going to employ some form of the trap, spinning off our fore-check. If we don’t have pressure, we’re going to sit back in a trap and play a real tight-checking game, and it’s just discipline,”
Glass said, adding, “Discipline was a problem at times. When I say discipline it’s not only penalties. When I speak of discipline, I’m talking more about discipline to the system we have to play, guys getting lost and starting to run around.”
But a team can always be better prepared at the start of any campaign, he noted.
The Yukon killed penalties well but failed to capitalize with the man advantage.
Glass said his team showed deft puck control but needs work getting pucks to the net.
“I have to say our penalty killing was the one thing that stood out to me as quite good on the weekend,” he said.
Glass also cited missing players key to special teams success: forward Jared Steinback, who plays with a bantam AAA team in Fort Saskatchewan; defenseman Mitch Read, who’s playing AA midget in London, Ont.; and forward Tyson Glass, who plays AA midget in Kelowna for Pursuit of Excellence.
To continue preparation for the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax, N.S., the Yukon boys are on the ice Mondays, doing dryland training Wednesdays and Fridays and playing with the Bantam and Midget Mustangs a couple times each week.
In addition, Glass is hoping to secure a series of home games against Juneau midgets and an under-16 team out of Fairbanks before going to Richmond, B.C., over Christmas to compete in a midget AA tournament which will guarantee the Yukon five games.
“We’re going to work hard and get our systems fine tuned,” Glass said.
“We’re going to be playing guys our age (at the Canada Games), they’re just going to be very, very good players because they’re going to be the elite from their particular province. They’re not going to be as big and strong as these midget teams, but they’ll be as talented. So we’re not going to have as much of a size factor to deal with, but we’re still going to have some foot speed to deal with and some real talented players out there. That’s why we’re going to have to play a real disciplined, stingy game.”