The TriPen Osprey are headed to the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League playoffs.
The team qualified for the playoffs on the second last day of the season doubling the Western Royals 6-3 to book their tickets to the second season. Conal McNamara (2), Nathaniel Duffett (2), Ryan Dawson and Adam Oates scored for the Osprey.
The game was a part of the year-end tournament held in Lewisporte Feb. 1-3.
“We were the only team to beat Western,” said head coach Byron Vatcher.
Heading into the tournament, the Osprey were just two points up on the fifth place St. John’s Privateers for the fourth and final playoff spot.
TriPen and the Privateers both failed to win in their opening games of the tournament.
The Osprey dropped tight one-goal games to the Central Ice Pak (3-2) and the St. John’s Maple Leafs (4-3) before the Western victory. They would defeat the Privateers 3-1 to end the tourney.
Goaltenders Riley Akerman and Jonathan Freake were sublime, surrendering a slim 11 goals over the course of the tournament.
“The boys competed all weekend,” said Vatcher.
With their playoff spot secured, the Osprey completed both of its goals for this season — compete and make the playoffs.
“It’s a good feeling,” said the coach.
The Osprey are a young team and take in players from many minor associations, including those based in Harbour Grace, Bay Roberts, Whitbourne, Placentia, Clarenville, Bonavista and Marystown.
Vatcher said competing in the provincial league was good experience for his young charges.
“For some, it was a different style of hockey,” he noted.
The Osprey have come a long way since the first weekend of the season.
With each weekend, the players have grown as a team. There may have been some growing pains at the beginning, but those do not show up as often anymore.
“The team has really come together,” said Vatcher. “They’re starting to listen.”
Gearing up Central
A daunting task awaits the Osprey in the first round of the playoffs, where it will meet the first place Central Ice Pak.
“We have to build off the momentum from last weekend,” said Vatcher.
The Osprey is winless against the Ice Pak this season, having dropped all six games between the clubs.
However, the differences between the two teams have been between one and two goals.
“We can play with them,” said Vatcher.
The coach said his team relishes the underdog status.
“These are the kinds of games the boys have something to reach for,” he said.
The feeling is the Osprey have closed the gap between the two teams in recent months and fans could be in for a barnburner of a series.
“We’re going to come in with something to prove,” said Vatcher. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The Osprey and Ice Pak get things started Feb. 15-16 at the Lewisporte Stadium before coming home for three games Feb. 21-23. It is unclear whether the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts will host all three games, but the final two will be played there.