Toughness tested

Matt Molloy
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Smaller Flyers show heart in gold-medal win over bigger Rovers

The Gander Peewee A Flyers may be lacking size compared to other provincial peewee teams, but there are two things they don't lack - heart and toughness.

Those two pivotal attributes were put to the test in Sunday's gold-medal match of the Mary Brown's Annual Peewee Invitational Hockey Tournament in Gander.

Playing against a noticeably bigger Bay Arena Rovers team of Bay Roberts, the Flyers were victims of thunderous body checks, and at times needed help to the bench after feeling the impact of those hits.

However, for as many times they were knocked down, the Flyers got right back up, and fought through a physical Rovers team to win gold 3-2.

Captain Adam Dawe scored two goals in the contest, including the game-winner midway through the second period, while Brendan Lanning scored the other Flyers' goal.

After the game ended, head coach Todd Baldwin talked about his team's toughness, and why it's important his team never shy away from the corners.

"We're not a physical team because we're not as big, but with the system we play, we have to be the first man to the puck. To be the first man to the puck, you need to be willing to go in and take the hit to make the play," said Baldwin. "It's a learning process for most of these guys, and they're learning how to get in position to take a hit and still be effective."

Dawe and teammate Matt Jones were one of the players who felt the wrath of the imposing Rovers' hitters, but like their teammates, never missed a shift after enduring the bone-crunching hits.

Although his muscles may have been aching Monday morning when he got up to go to school, Dawe was feeling great after the game when the gold medal was placed around his neck.

For Dawe, it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down as long as you're able to get back up.

"They're really rough and they take the body a lot," said Dawe of the Rovers. "We're getting used to it now, so we just get back up and fill the net."

"You need to be more careful going into the corners, and you can't go straight in," said Jones. "Playing against a team like that, you have to watch they don't hit you from behind, because that's when you get hurt."

“We’re getting used to it now, so we just get back up and fill the net.” Adam Dawe

Besides bouncing back from the Rovers' hits, the Flyers' speedy forechecking also played a huge part in the team's gold-medal win.

Although they're not necessarily physical, the Flyers' forwards usually get to the puck first during a dump-and-chase play. Once they get the puck, they use a strong passing game to keep the pressure on the opposition.

"Our positional play in our defensive zone is something we always practice. We always practice from goalie out," said Baldwin. "We're smart in our own zone and that alleviates the chances from the other team. We have a two-man forecheck that we use, and the boys do a great job of making sure we have two men on the puck at all times with a guy high, and as soon as we establish the puck, we rotate it in the corners, and it seems to be working really well."

Moving forward, Baldwin is hopeful the Flyers will be able to travel east in a few weeks to play other tough peewee teams.

As it stands, the Flyers generally play the same teams over and over again, and Baldwin wants to find some new competition to test their always-improving skills.

"Our whole goal this year was to get better right from the start," said Baldwin. "This new St. John's league has kind of hampered us for games this year, so we're not getting a whole lot of games. We're only playing Corner Brook and Bay Roberts, which is our calibre, but we're not getting into St. John's. Our provincial tournament in April will include four teams from St. John's, so we're hoping to get out there in a few weeks to see how we compare to those teams."

mmolloy@ganderbeacon.ca

Organizations: Flyers

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, Gander, St. John's Corner Brook

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