It was a tough go for Team Northwestern Ontario at the 2010 U-16 prospects’ hockey tournament in Kitchener over the weekend.
The regional squad lost all six of its games at the tournament, which is designed to allows players from across the province to showcase their skills in an attempt to join Team Ontario at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax in February.
But while the team struggled overall, assistant coach Wayne Strachan, bench boss of the Junior ‘A’ Fort Frances Lakers, noted some individual performances may be remembered when the team is named in January.
“We had numerous players that did compete well, and put strong performances on at the tournament that got recognized by the Team Ontario officials,” he stressed.
Local player Jordan Larson, who also served as team captain, led the Fort Frances contingent with two goals and two assists in six games.
Forward Colton Spicer chipped in a goal while defenceman Judd Gardiman contributed an assist.
Lastly, goalie Scott Parsons recorded a 0.841 save percentage and 5.59 goals against average while playing 90 minutes over three games between the pipes.
But for much of the team, which was comprised primarily of the Thunder Bay Kings’ Minor-Midget ‘AAA’ squad, the tournament was a realization of what larger branches in southern Ontario are capable of.
“It was an eye-opener not only for myself and the coaching staff, but for the players,” Strachan noted.
“We were up there against five all-star teams from the other branches.
“If you compare our territory and what we have to draw from, compared to them, that’s what you get out of it,” he added.
Northwestern Ontario was outscored 27-8 over its six games, but Strachan felt that with stiff competition severely lacking in this region, the tough slogging was healthy for the team.
“With only having a certain amount of ‘AAA’ teams in our area, and the lack of playing at that high competition all the time, in every game, is contributing to our development being a little bit behind,” he remarked.
“It was good competition,” he added. “It was good to see the level that some of the players were at, and it’s definitely not what I expected.
“I knew we were in tough, but with the calibre of players we had and the team we put together, [I thought] that we would have a little more success than we did.”
Strachan said working with coaches Vern Ray and Randy Allen, who both have coached internationally, helped him with his own ability.
“It was good to learn some of [Ray’s] tactics and his game plans,” Strachan enthused.
“He’s a smart hockey guy and tried to prepare the players as best he could for the tournament.
“It’s good to learn from two guys that coach in two different areas and have been coaching for some time now,” he reasoned.
Strachan said he hopes to have the chance to help out with the tournament down the road, and plans to bring back his newfound knowledge—including drills and team-building activities—to his posts with the Lakers and the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association.
“It’s things like this event that make not only the players better on the ice and better people, but also the coaching staff,” he remarked.