DEER LAKE, NL – A bronze medal in male hockey at the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games is great motivation heading into AAA provincials over Easter, according to local hockey players.
The central boys didn’t lose a game, but fell one goal short of the gold-medal round after tying their first game 3-3 with Avalon and winning their second 6-1 over Labrador.
“We got placed in the bronze-medal round,” coach Rob Canning told the Advertiser. “We played off versus western for the opportunity to play in the bronze-medal game, which we ended up winning. We played Avalon…to win the bronze medal 3-1.”
Canning said the team played “absolutely excellent,” and against some very good teams.
“We got excellent goaltending from our goalie; right through our forwards and our D played above their potential. As a coaching staff we couldn’t be happier,” Canning said.
The team was selected from open tryouts over Christmas, and teammates come from as far east as Gander Bay and west to the Baie Verte Peninsula.
“For the most part the team, besides three players, was the same as the AAA Bantam team so we just continued practicing together as a group and brought on the extra fellows and took it from there,” Canning said.
“We had a little bit of an edge in that we have the same coaching staff that we’ve had all year, plus for the most part, the same guys. I knew what to expect out of the players and they knew what to expect out of the coaching staff.”
Team captain Kobe Burt, 14, has been playing hockey since the age of three.
He said the team is proud of the medal.
“It was a great experience,” Burt said. “We had a great outcome. A medal is what we were looking for and that’s what we came out with.
“We played great. We put a lot of heart and effort into the games we played and that’s why we got the bronze medal.”
He said he also met a lot of people and the players really bonded as a team.
“I hope this will help our team out a lot as we head to provincials for AAA in a few weeks,” Burt said.
Goaltender Mitchell Dinn, 14, agrees the overall experience should be beneficial to the team heading into provincials in Witburn over around Easter break.
“It was mainly AAA teams from across the province,” Dinn said. “They even had a team come down from Labrador. You saw the best hockey that you could there the weekend.”
He said the team played well.
“They gelled together good in the room, we were all getting along and looking good going into provincials,” he said.
Dinn has also been playing hockey for 11 years and has been in net for nine. He said he knew pretty much right away he wanted to be a goalie.
“My pop (Tommy Fudge) was always a goalie,” he said. “I really look up to him and he taught me how to start off being in net and I just got into it and loved it.”
The Winter Games experience added to the learning, especially how to be on his own.
“I gained also gelling with other players better, meeting new friends…and it was overall a good experience for me,” Dinn said.
“The team played the best they could and it was a good showing for central throughout the whole Winter Games. I know the volleyball team from Bishop’s in girls won gold, and the boys (volleyball team from Gander area) lost in the bronze-medal game but everyone performed the best that they could. It was good for central.”
The team also took in other sports and cheered on other central teams, including the male and female volleyball teams. As the coach said, it’s all about the overall experience for the athletes and the coaching staff.
“You are taking a group of fellas, they are travelling together, they are eating together, they are sleeping in the same room, and I’d say for most of them it’s the first time they’ve ever experienced anything like this,” Canning said. “The games I’m sure are something they will never forget.”