It’s been nearly a full year since the St. John’s Pennecon Privateers dropped the Championship game of the Cavendish Farms Monctonian AAA Challenge to the Charlottetown Islanders of Prince Edward Island, 3-1, and for the five returning players, Marcus Cuomo, Joey Trenholm, Nick Lindstrom, Justin Walsh and goaltender Matt Jenkins, they are chomping at the bit to take that next step and claim Monctonian Gold.
When asked about last years loss, Trenholm said, "When you play in a championship game you always play to win, so losing last year’s final was disappointing, but that gives you the motivation to win it all this year." Walsh added that he was "very disappointed - I really believed we were the better team. This year as a returning veteran, I have an extra year of experience and I am mentally prepared to play a significant role and help lead the team to victory". Trenholm also stated that "being a third year player this year I look at myself as a team leader and I expect a lot out of myself. The team this year has a very good off ice training program combined with a game plan that has been relayed to the players. We are working hard each week to get better prepared for this tournament and the rest of the season."
This year’s roster looks much different, with the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League (NLMMHL) ordering a draft between the two St. John’s teams (Privateers and Maple Leafs) to even the talent, but for some of the players who were on the Leafs last year, they too know it will be a long tough road to get all the way to the final. They cannot take anyone lightly in this tournament and must take it one game at a time. As with all teams, there will be new players, and new challenges. For the first time since 2007, the tournament will expand out of Atlantic Canada, with teams from both Alberta and Ontario making the trip down for the best Midget tournament in Atlantic Canada.
Trenholm noted that "this tournament is one of the highlights of the year for our team. All the top teams from Atlantic Canada will be there. To win this tournament is always very difficult and with the players in St. John's now spilt into two even teams, we have a greater challenge. We are determined to do our best and have a positive result."
Doug Jackman will make his Head Coaching debut at the Monctonian, as he served as an Assistant in previous years with the Maple Leafs and Tri-Pen, while current Assistant Coach Kris Abbott makes his debut in the Major division, after spending time in the Minor division with a couple of different teams in years past.
When asked about how he was preparing his team for battle, Jackman said, "I don’t know what our chances are going into the tournament, with the structure of our league being a little different this year, but we are preparing for a long tournament and we are confident in the group we have. We will see how far it takes us. We will stick to the game plans that have made us successful so far this year. One of our strengths is our ability to adjust in game - so if we need to, we can change things up. We have done some homework on our opponents and we will be well prepared once we hit the ice. Our group has come together very quickly and we looked for adaptable, personable players at the draft back in August. We are a tight group and when the chips are down we will be there for each other."
Abbott seconded Jackman’s thoughts, while adding, "A second place finish at this tournament is a great accomplishment from last year’s team. Having watched that game as a spectator, the boys were in it right until the end, but ran up against a powerful Charlottetown team. I believe that if everyone comes to the rink prepared and we keep doing the simple things right, then there's no reason we can't get back to the final and have a shot at winning."
“I have been around a lot of teams in my life, as a player and a coach. This is one of the most mature and respectful groups I've seen at any age level. I've travelled with adults that aren't as professional as these guys. They have all participated in events of this scope before, so I don't see us having a problem adjusting to this style of event." Abbott added.
Following another successful weekend at the rink in the NLMMHL, where they defeated the Tri-Pen Lions three times, the Privateers sit atop the standings with a 14-0-1 record, good for 29 points. The Privateers will travel to Moncton on Wednesday and kick off the round robin Thursday afternoon with a game against Cape Breton West before the marquee matchup with the defending Atlantic Champion Halifax Titans on Friday. They close out the round robin against the South Shore Mustangs who are currently in second place behind Halifax in the Nova Scotia Major Midget League Standings. Playoffs continue Saturday night and all day Sunday.
A total of fifty midget teams, in two divisions (Major and Minor), will converge in Moncton, NB from November 17th to the 21st as the Red Ball Internet Centre will serve as host to one of the largest tournaments of its kind in North America. The Monctonian AAA Challenge serves as a showcase for the region’s top Midget hockey players with scouts in attendance from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Maritime Junior ‘A’ League and numerous American and Canadian Colleges and Prep Schools. For updates from the tournament, please follow the St. John’s Pennecon Privateers on Twitter @PrivateersHC and on their website www.sport.ca/privateers.
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NL Major Midget "AAA" - St. John's Maple Leafs, Western Kings, Central IcePak, and the Northern Huskies.
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