IcePak to meet Kings in NLMMHL championship series
© Nicholas Mercer/TC•Media
STANDING STRONG — Central IcePak goalie Noah Weir stares down Tri Pen Osprey shooter Cass Warren during Sunday’s game five, which the IcePak won 8-3 to qualify for the league championship series, where they’ll face the defending champion Western Kings.
The final series has been set in the provincial major midget hockey league, and with it comes a chance for redemption for the Central IcePak.
The IcePak won games three, four and five over the Tri Pen Osprey this past weekend to take that semifinal series 4-1, while last year’s league champion Western Kings swept the St. John’s Maple Leafs in the other.
This sets up a rematch of last year’s semifinal series, which the Kings won in game seven over the IcePak, thanks to two goals in the final 93 seconds.
IcePak head coach Rob Canning says last year’s loss should still be fresh in the minds of the players that were there, and if it’s not, he’s going to remind them.
“It’s always good to talk about the feelings the boys had when they lost that game seven,” he told TC Media. “In the end, they lost that game seven to a very good team in the very last minute.
“When things didn’t go your way in the past it’s good to learn from them and move forward. We’ll definitely discuss last year to keep it fresh in their minds, and use it as motivation.”
If that isn’t enough motivation for the AAA major midget players from central, one local hockey mind wants the team to use a tweet sent by a provincial media group predicting the Kings to win the final.
Shortly after the league championship series was finalized, Sports on The Rock, a sports reporting and broadcast service on the island, tweeted it predicts the Kings to take the series in five or six games.
Chris Hoyles replied, and told team captain Josh Fitzgerald to use the prediction as bulletin board material.
As for Canning, he doesn’t really care about predictions, but hopes his players take note of this one.
“I’m hoping that gets the boys pumped up, and I’m certainly going to make them aware of it,” said Canning. “I have absolutely no problem with people thinking we’re the underdogs. I’m fine with that. We’re going to play our game, and people can tweet what they want to tweet…we have a veteran group in that room and we’re going to be ready to go.”
One thing Canning may like to see from his team in the final series is a better first period. Although the team outscored the Osprey in the final three games of the series 19-5, Canning said the IcePak never had the first period he wanted them to have.
We’re going to play our game, and people can tweet what they want to tweet…we have a veteran group in that room and we’re going to be ready to go. Rob Canning
“We were a little slow in the first period in all three games. Actually, I don’t know if we were slow or if they were playing really well,” said Canning. “The fact we rolled four lines, and the fact the boys are in pretty good shape, I think they had trouble staying with us in the second and third periods of each game.”
The Western Kings can also expect to deal with a gritty bunch of forwards who will undoubtedly park themselves in front of the net to make life harder for whoever is in goal.
It’s a tactic the IcePak used after its game one loss to the Osprey.
“After our first game of the series, we knew we were getting a lot of shots, but they weren’t quality shots, and their goalie was seeing a lot,” said Canning. “After that first loss, one of the things we worked on, and one of the things we really stressed to the players, was getting a lot more traffic in front of the net. Looking back at Sunday’s game five, three of our first goals in the game were shots from the point that the goalie never saw.
“When we go to the players with an idea or a strategy, they take it and run with it.”
The IcePak and Kings split their season series 3-3. Interestingly enough, the visiting teams won all but one game throughout the six-game set.
Canning expects the final series to at least be as intense and physical as the regular-season games, but emphasized his team has to play its game and not worry about anything else.
“It’s definitely going to be a hard-fought series,” said Canning. “They really played well against the St. John’s Maple Leafs, who are a great team, in the other semifinal. They have some veterans who helped the team win the league last year, and they’re quite familiar being in this position.
“Being in the league final is new territory for us,” the coach continued. “They’re going to be tough, they play a great team game, and they’re rough, and I can’t wait to get started. If we continue to play our style of game of playing strong defensively and taking care of our own zone first, and allowing the offensive side of our game take over when we get those opportunities, I think we’ll be fine.”