Defence does it

Matt Molloy
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Strong D leads B Flyers to S&P gold

The Gander B Atom Flyers depended on a strong defensive effort to capture gold at this past weekend's S&P Invitational Atom Hockey Tournament.

The Flyers finished a three-game round robin with a 2-0-1 record, but more astoundingly, allowed just one goal against in those three games.

In the final against the Bishop's Falls Express, Peter Kelly scored twice, while Matthew Hicks, Skyler Saunders and Will Parsons added singles to lead the Flyers to a 5-1 gold-medal win.

"I'm very pleased with the gold medal. They were behind in two games they played, but they stuck with the game plan, played hard, showed good sportsmanship, and they persevered," said head coach John Gill after the gold-medal presentations Sunday morning. "I'm very proud of them."

Of everything the team did right over the weekend, Gill was extremely complimentary of the way his team played on the defensive side of the puck. The opposition can't win if it can't score, and if the Flyers continue to dominate defensively, opposing teams are going to have a tough time figuring out how to put the puck into the back of the net.

Playing a strong defensive game is something Gill brought into the very first practice, and it's something he'll continue working on as the season progresses.

"The first things we introduced to these players were responsibilities in our own end, defensive face-off positioning, and what to do when you win a defensive zone face-off and what to do when you lose the defensive zone face-off. We haven't brought much offensive play into our practices just yet, we'll probably start now, but we start at home with defence," said Gill. "We had only two goals scored against us in four games, so it speaks well of our goalie Tyler Brown, our defence, and our back-checking forwards."

After working hard in practice and throughout the annual S&P tournament, Saunders was more than happy with his team's achievement.

Although he's still early in his minor hockey career, the young Saunders already knows how gratifying it is to see how hard work can pay off.

"After working so hard these past few days, winning the gold medal is a pretty good feeling," said Saunders. "We worked really hard over the four games we played, so it feels good to come out on top."

“After working so hard these past few days, winning the gold medal is a pretty good feeling.” Skyler Saunders

The win was extra special for Parsons, who in three round-robin games led all Flyers in scoring with four points (two goals, two assists). The atom player has laced up his skates many times in his young life, but coming out on the winning end of a gold-medal game is something he's never experienced before.

"This feels really good," said Parsons. "This is the first gold medal I've ever won, and we work so hard in our practices, and we work so hard in our games, it just turned us into a good hockey team."

Added inspiration

Before the B Flyers competed for the gold, players like Saunders took in the gold-medal game in the C division between the Flyers and Clarenville Caribous. Saunders looked on from behind the glass as the Flyers edged the Caribous 3-2, which gave him a new sense of confidence.

"Seeing them win the gold medal, I knew if they could win their gold, we could win ours," said Saunders.

Both Parsons and Saunders said winning the gold medal at home was extra icing on the cake. Hearing the cheering crowd, according to the two players, pumped the team up, and winning the gold in front of family and friends was very satisfying.

That feeling of satisfaction was shared by Gill, who said he can't help but feel satisfied every time he watches his players do what they learn every practice.

"It's very satisfying when you see the players playing responsibly, doing their individual jobs and trusting their teammates," said Gill. "You can see sometimes in a particular game or practice when the light bulb comes in a child, and it's very satisfying when you see that."

mmolloy@ganderbeacon.ca

Organizations: Flyers

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