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Tri Pen Osprey up 2-0 in best-of-seven league championship final

Twitter/@TriPenOsprey - Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League president Glenn Littlejohn presents the Tri Pen Osprey’s Luke Akerman, the league’s top scorer and most valuable player, with his award over the weekend.
Twitter/@TriPenOsprey - Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League president Glenn Littlejohn presents the Tri Pen Osprey’s Luke Akerman, the league’s top scorer and most valuable player, with his award over the weekend. - Contributed

Change happens and often can't be avoided.

But with hard work, difficulties that exist or rise can be overcome.

Overcoming obstacles was a monumental task facing the Tri Pen Osprey from the start of 2018-2019 hockey season.

A task that now sees the team two wins away from winning the league title.

Like any underdog strives to do, the Flying Osprey aimed to put out the first place-team in the semi-final.

It took games, but the Osprey won in a grueling seven-games series on East Coast Blizzard’s home ice Sunday March 11 at Fieldians Gardens in St. John’s.

Having a berth in the league final, the Osprey kept their sharps eyes on the prize and travelled to Deer Lake to play the GM Western Kings March 15-16. The Kings defeated the St. John’s Maple Leafs in their six-game series.

The Osprey won game one 4-1 behind strong goaltending of Riley Petten. Game two was a closer win at 4-2, but solid defence and key saves by Ben Williams gave Tri Pen an exciting 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven final series.

The Tri Pen squad hopes to close out the series when hosting three, four and (if necessary) five this weekend. Friday's March 22nd game is 8 p.m. at the Danny Cleary Harbour Grace Community Centre, Saturday's is 7 p.m. at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, while Sunday's if needed goes 10 a.m. in Whitbourne.

Coach Brian Cranford said he expects his forwards to play a solid two-way game while capitalizing on scoring opportunities as they did the past two months.

The winner of the league final travels to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island April 4-7 to play for the Atlantic Championship.

After seeing 700-900 fans at the Hodder Arena for games one and two, the Osprey expect huge crowds as the franchise hopes to win the title on home ice.

At the end of 2017-18 season, the previous franchise owner noted he would not be operating the Osprey anymore. The Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget League was stuck looking for a prospective owner late into the summer.

In mid-August, Bay Roberts business man, hockey coach and former senior hockey player Chris Crosbie and his wife Danita approached league president Glenn Littlejohn about franchising the Tri Pen team.

Yet signing the franchise papers was easy for the two hockey lovers. Attracting a competent coach and recruiting quality players would be the hard task.

The Tri Pen region is blessed in size geographically yet suffers when it comes to attracting 15-17 year olds willing to commit to the grueling aspects of the AAA midget league’s physicality, travel, practice and game schedules.

Once highly respected former junior coach Cranford was signed and was joined by former peewee and bantam Tri Pen AAA staff members Carl Dohey, Roger Akerman and David Kennedy, player tryouts were started.

The first few skates had low player turnout, yet once the two St. John's teams were picked and the central team folded, Tri Pen was permitted to reached out to players who were not rostered in the league.

Slowly but surely, the Osprey roster was finalized and ready to strike.

From the get go a big dependence was placed on veteran forwards Luke Akerman, Braedon Carlson, and Ethan Crosbie, defensemen Liam Best, Lucas Russell and stand out goalie Riley Petten. Solid second-year players Corey Parson, Tylor Dohey, Brady Oates and Mark Davis added good depth with first-year players Shaemus Best, Josh Elford and Joshua Kennedy, ensuring the team had upstart players.

After the addition of third-year player Jeff Fewer and first-year player Kobe Burt from Grand Falls and first years Andrew Power, Jordan Winter and Ben Williams from St. John's, the Crosbies knew a respectable roster was set.

In November when former Team NL U14 and U15 player Mark Rumsey returned from mainland junior hockey and expressed an interest in playing, much needed fire power and explosiveness was added up front.

Then in January, Osprey player Riley Mayne returned from schooling in Nova Scotia, giving the team another solid two-way centre.

Since then the team has played its 32-game regular season and competed in the Monctonian and Halifax IceJam.

The team played well but started to turn heads when it made it to the second playoff round at the Halifax IceJam, farthest of all four Newfoundland and Labrador teams.

The team continued its fore-checking gritty game and finished the year on a roll.

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