When the Tri Pen Osprey returned to the Newfoundland Major Midget Hockey League one of its goals was to make the playoffs.
And, that is exactly what they did.
Although the team bowed out in the semifinals of the five-team league, officials with the Osprey are calling this season a success.
“Absolutely,” said manager Scott Akerman. “We’ve improved steadily throughout the year.”
For proof of the progress made by the team, look no further than the two tournaments that bookend the season. In October, the Osprey went winless in its first four games.
Fast forward to the end of the year and Tri Pen posted a record of 2-2 in the final four games of the regular season.
“For anyone who follows the league this year knows we were probably one of the most, if not the most improved team,” noted Akerman.
Tri Pen had the unenviable task of matching up with the top seeded Central IcePak in its playoff series.
After a hard fought win in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series, the Osprey dropped the next four games of the series.
The latest being an 8-3 loss in Game 5 of the series at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts on Feb. 23.
But don’t let the 4-1 series defeat fool you, Tri Pen played with the IcePak for the majority of every game.
Through the five games, Tri Pen and Central orchestrated a symphony of intense action and superb skill, much to the delight of the 500-600 fans who jammed themselves in the Bay Arena for the final two games of the series.
However, in the end the IcePak proved to be too much for the Osprey.
“We’re left with a good feeling,” said Akerman. “We’re looking forward to next year.”
A solid core
The future looks bright for Tri Pen. The Osprey are losing just five senior players to graduation — Adam Oates, Colin Thomas, Jonathan Freake, Spencer Norcott and Jonathan Pilgrim.
This means a strong group of second and first year players led by the likes of Ryan Dawson, Christian Dawe, Riley Akerman, Conal McNamara, Nathaniel Duffett, Lyndon Thorne, Cass Warren and others will have that much more experience heading into next season.
“We have a good core to build on,” said Akerman.
Along with a solid core in place, there is a strong group ready to take the place of those who left.
The Tri Pen Ice bantam AAA team picked up a silver medal at the provincial playdowns. Many of those players will be eligible to make a run at a spot next season.
The Osprey take in players from many minor associations, including those based in Harbour Grace, Bay Roberts, Whitbourne, Placentia, Clarenville, Bonavista and Marystown.
Navigating the murky waters of a provincial league like the NMMHL takes some getting used too.
Every step of the way there are different, new situations to become accustomed too. Things like managing the logistics that come with travelling to Moncton or ensuring there are enough hotel rooms in Lewisporte.
It was no different for the Osprey.
There were some things that surprised Akerman. One of those things was the parity of the league.
“It’s good, fast competitive hockey,” he said.
The Osprey received outstanding community support from the outset. Despite conflicts with senior hockey, Tri Pen continuously drew strong numbers at the gate.
“The crowds came out and supported us,” said Akerman.
The team is appreciative of the support it got from fans, as well as the work done by coaches Jeff Garland and Byron Vatcher.
“It’s something to build on for sure,” said Akerman.