Junior teams looking to right ship

Nicholas Mercer
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Stars, Flyers experiencing early-season woes

Conception Bay North Junior Stars goaltender Conor Thompson bears down on the puck in front of him amid chaos when the Junior Stars battled the CBR Renegades, Oct. 26 at the Bay Arena in Bay Robers. The Junior Stars will need more offence in order to get back into the playoff hunt.

It's about a third of the way through the 2012-13 St. John's junior hockey league circuit and both the Conception Bay North Junior Stars and Trinity-Placentia Junior Flyers are at the bottom of the pile in standings.

With a record of two wins and five losses, the Bay Arena-based Junior Stars have mustered only four points out of a possible 14 and sit in sixth spot in the seven-team league. The team trails the fifth place CBR Renegades, who have six points.

In Whitbourne, the Junior Flyers have been able to manage a single win this season, while dropping six games.

Junior Flyers head coach Eugene Hutchings chalked it up to a lineup that features three 18-year-olds.

"That's a lot of first-years," he said.

The Junior Flyers are not lacking in the offence department.

The team returned all three of its leading scorers from last year - Paul Hutchings, Darrin Wilkins and Jeremy Nicholas.

All three are in the top four scoring wise for the Flyers, with rookie Jonathon Oake featuring enough on the scoresheet to fall in third behind Wilkins and Nicholas, with Paul fourth.

Where Eugene finds his greatest deficit is with his defence corps.

The team only has one senior defenceman on the point - Cody McNamara - and that has shown on the scoreboard.

"We are lacking experience on the back end," he said.

Eugene has seen improvement in his blueline players from the beginning of the season.

"They're getting used to the speed of the game," he said.

All of the youth on the back end might also be having a side effect on the play of starter Matthew Power.

After posting a record of 11 wins and five losses last season, Power has recorded just one win to go along with four losses this season.

It is something that is not lost on Eugene.

"I need Power to start stepping up," he said. "I need him to get a little confidence."

Even with the abysmal start, Eugene believes his team is going to turn it around.

"The boys are saying, 'don't worry, we're alright,'" he said. "The team is pretty close. I don't think playoffs are out of the question."

Youthful Stars

Meanwhile, the Junior Stars are suffering through a season-long scoring drought. The team has managed to light the lamp 19 times over its first seven games.

The lack of scoring punch could be attributed to the availability of captain Tyler Adams. Adams has been in and out of the lineup due to work commitments, but has still managed to net five points (four goals and one assist) in two games.

The next two top scorers are rookies Cody Batten and Bradley Budden, each with five points.

Besides a lack of scoring, head coach Rob Button said that similar to the Junior Flyers, his squad lacks experience.

"We're a young team, " he said. "We're still learning and getting used to each other."

Because of this, Button has his team playing a defensive-minded game. Excluding last weekend's action, the team has only allowed 37 goals. Only the St. John's Junior Caps (18) and the Avalon Junior Capitals (23) have allowed fewer.

"We don't have a lot of goal scorers, so we've been kind of playing a dump-and-chase game," he said. "We're playing a little bit of a defensive game."

Button said he feels like the young players are "adjusting well" to the jump in competition.

"I'd say seven or eight of them are fresh out of midget."

It's been an learning experience for Button as well. Prior to this season, the highest level of hockey he had coached was midget.

"It's what I was expecting," he said. "It's a faster game, but I was prepared for that. I'm adjusting and learning."

Button praised the veterans on the team for their "great leadership."

He is not discouraged by the slow start of his team, either.

"It's only the first month and I'm sure we'll be right in the thick of (the playoffs)," he said.

Both teams are in action this weekend. The Junior Stars welcome the Southern Shore Breakers to the Bay Arena for a 7:15 p.m. tilt on Nov. 16, and then travel to the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay for a matchup with the Junior Celtics on Nov. 18 (5 p.m.).

The Flyers have one game, a Sunday (Nov. 18) matchup with the Mount Pearl Junior Wild at the Glacier. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: Flyers, Conception Bay North Junior Stars, Avalon Junior Capitals

Geographic location: St. John's, Whitbourne, Torbay

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