HALIFAX, N.S. – Rob Canning had no idea what to expect from his Bantam AAA Central IcePak at the East Coast Ice Jam hockey tournament.
The IcePak arrived in Halifax after posting a 4-18 record in the provincial AAA bantam league, scoring 47 goals over those 22 games.
At the Ice Jam, however, the IcePak found its scoring touch and rode it all the way to the quarterfinal of the 27-team tournament, held Jan. 10-14.
The Pak lost that hard-fought, tit-for-tat quarterfinal battle to the Central Attack in overtime 3-2.
Overall, the IcePak averaged a little more than four goals a game over five games played, leaving their coach extremely proud.
“We have a pretty young team and some guys are still learning the game…and for some guys it’s their first time playing at a AAA level or at a level where there’s hitting involved. It took some time for them to adjust,” said Canning.
The Ice Jam featured the top Bantam AAA teams from the Atlantic provinces, as well as other provincial teams Tri Pen Ice, Tri Com Thunder and St. John’s Hitmen. The IcePak finished higher than any other provincial Bantam AAA team and scored more round-robin goals.
“Our best players were our best players, but even when those guys didn’t have the offensive touch in a particular game, other guys stepped up and scored some big goals,” said Canning. “As a coach, it made me really happy seeing that.”
Bradley Blake led the way in the three-game round robin with four goals and two assists. Kobe Burt followed with a goal and four helpers, while Nathan Casey and Marty Bowers collected four points each.
Blake continued his torrid scoring pace in the round of 16 and quarterfinal games, scoring twice and adding three assists.
Goalies Nicholas Bradley and Dinn Mitchell both picked up wins in the round robin, and Dinn played in both playoff games.
When the tournament ended, Burt was given a First Team All-Star nod, while Blake and defenceman Nickolas Dyson picked up Second Team All-Star nods.
Canning couldn’t have been happier for his players.
“To do that in a tournament with so many great players is amazing. For Kobe to make the First All-Star Team means he’s one of the three best forwards in that tournament, and there are some high-ranking players that are on some impressive radars of those in the hockey world that were left off that team,” said Canning. “Kobe and Bradley are go-to guys for us, and they really stepped up their games for us. They’re great leaders, they’re the first guys in the corner on the puck, they block shots and did what was needed.
“The thing about Nick is he’s a top-pairing defenceman…and it’s a little harder on him because we put him up against the other team’s best players,” added Canning about Dyson. “He does that with a smile on his face and he loves that challenge. He had some tough assignments in Halifax, so for him to be named an all-star is very impressive.”
The IcePak season has continued since returning from Ice Jam, and Canning is hopeful the team will build off the momentum they found in Halifax.
With eight games left in the regular season, Canning wants to see continued improvement.
“Our goal all year was gradually get better, and work towards the Irving Cup. That’s still our goal,” said Canning.