Bay Arena peewee A team built for speed

Nicholas Mercer
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Rovers tops in provincewide league

The Bay Arena peewee A Rovers beat the Gander Flyers 4-0 in the championship game of top division at the Mary Brown's Peewee Tournament held at the Gander Community Centere Feb. 1-3. Members of the team are: Front (left to right) - goaltenders Caleb Andrews and Riley Petten; middle - Dawson Mercer, Zack Bennett and Luke Akerman; back - Bradien Carlson, Kyle Petten, Matthew Akerman, Shailyn Snow, Adam Pike, Daniel Goudie, Matthew Breaker, Mason Oates, Kyle Tetford, Ethan Crosbie, Robbie Craig and Lucas Russell; coaches - Wade Oates, Roger Akerman and Bo Bennett.

Bay Arena minor hockey has a history of producing quality hockey teams.

Through 18 games in the inaugural NL Peewee All-Star League, the Bay Arena A Rovers are becoming another shining example of that.

With a record of 12 wins, three losses and three ties, the Rovers sit atop the four-team league, which also features teams from Gander, Clarenville and Corner Brook.

The latest stop for the teams came during the round-robin Mary Brown's Peewee Tournament in Gander on Feb. 1-3. The championship was an extra game for the Rovers.

Bay Arena would face off with each league team, notching a record of two wins and a 4-4 tie with Gander, which gave the team a berth in the finals.

In the finals, the team would beat the host team 4-0 to take the championship.

"The tourney was good," said head coach Bo Bennett. "It was the second year in a row we had been in the championship, and the second year that we played Gander."

Bennett said the new league has been a "saviour" for his squad.

"Our bantam A team here has played three games this year, and two of those have been in-house against our midget Bs," said Bennett. "Without the league, we would be in the same boat."

Up until Jan. 27, the Rovers have four of the top-five scorers in the league on its roster.

First-year forward Kyle Petten has been lights out, registering 23 goals and 11 assists to lead the league. Next are Zack Bennett and Dawson Mercer, who each have 24 points. Liam Smith, from Corner Brook, breaks up the Bay Arena scoring run with 21 points.

Shailyn Snow, the team's only female, has 19 points to round out the Top-5.

"The whole top line is leading the league in scoring," said Bennett. "All of our top line forwards are first years."

Early on, Bay Arena was dominating their opponents. But Bennett can see an improvement in the other teams.

"Scores are getting closer," he said. "We honestly believe that we're really making the other teams stronger."

Clarenville is the prime example of this. In weeks one and two, Bay Arena rolled over the Caribous with scores of 5-3 and 10-4. However, the following two weeks saw Clarenville skate to 5-5 and 1-1 ties with the Rovers.

"We don't give up many goals and we don't give up many shots," said Bennett.

To date, the Rovers have scored 68 times and allowed just 34 pucks into their net.

Polar opposites

Bennett sees a difference in this year's squad and the team he help guide to a divison B provincial title last spring.

"We are the polar opposites in size and toughness," he said. "Our physical strength is not the same."

Last year's team featured big bodies in Ryan Petten, Colin Parsons, Mark Barrett and Noah Mercer, amongst others. They've since moved on to bantam.

Bennett and his coaching staff knew what to expect when they picked the team earlier in the year.

It is essentially the same team from two years ago that picked up a silver medal at the atom A provincial tournament.

"We knew what we had from two years ago," said Bennett. "This team is built for speed."

Filling a void

In losing Ryan Petten, the team also lost its captain. Filling that void has been a number of players.

"Zack has really stepped up," Bennett said.

Bennett had high praise for the work of two players in particular.

"Kyle Tetford has been really stepping up," said Bennett.

For the team, Tetford has been filling whatever role the team has asked of him.

"He's huge on shot blocks. He just sacrifices his body on everything," said the coach.

The next player Bennet calls the Miracle Boy.

"Matthew Breaker. He's never played on an A or B team, just C teams ... he's playing on the A team and on the top line. So, that's quite an accomplishment," he said.

Staying home

Where last year the team travelled to, and won, the Joe Lamontagne Memorial tournament in Cole Harbour, NS, this year the team is electing to stay home.

The Bay Arena will be hosting the best teams in the province when it hosts the peewee A division provincial tournament during Easter week.

The team will be looking to avoid the same fate as it did two years ago when it dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime decision to CBR.

"We know we're in tough and we're going to prepare for the tournament," said Bennett.

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: NL Peewee All-Star League

Geographic location: Gander, Clarenville, Corner Brook Cole Harbour

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