Published on March 26, 2014
Western Regals goaltender Avery Arsenault turns aside a scoring attempt by the P.E.I. Midget AAA Hockey League's regular season scoring champion, Mid-Isle Matrix Cody Miller during the Regals' playouff championship-clinching victory recently. The game and the series were close, and teams are expecting more of the same when they meet Thursday in the Atlantic Midget AAA championship tournament in Alberton.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Published on March 26, 2014
Curklan Fraser (11) clears the puck to get the Western Regals out of danger following a pile-up behind the Regals' net that included his goaltender. The action occurred during the deciding game of the P.E.I. Midget AAA championship series between the Regals and the Mid-Isle Matrix. The Regals won the game 4-2 to take the series three games to two. They’re hosting the Atlantic championship and will face the Matrix in their first game at 8 p.m Thursday.
ALBERTON -- Western Midget AAA Regals head coach Brett Corcoran recalls finding out the day before his team’s first on-ice tryout back in September that the Regals would host the very last Midget AAA Hockey Atlantic championship and then spreading the news to prospective team members. The news broke just hours before he met the try-outs at the rink.
“I think they were pretty excited knowing they were going to get the opportunity to be (in the Atlantic tournament) right away,” he reflected.
Yet, he doesn’t think it influenced the make-up of the team. He believes the players who helped the Regals win a provincial championship last week are on the team because that is where they wanted to play midget hockey, not because they had a guaranteed spot in the Atlantic tournament.
“I think it was probably on the back of their minds all year but I think they were focused on taking it one thing at a time,” Corcoran philosophized. “If they were thinking of it too much, they might not have played as hard through the regular season and through the playoffs, knowing they were already at the Atlantics.”
Well, guess what they’re focused on now: the last of their goals for the year.
The Regals beat out the Mid-Isle Matrix for the regular season championship and then edged them three games to two in the provincial championship series, leaving only the Atlantic championship tournament in their focus. They open Thursday at 8 p.m. against the Mid-Isle team they’ve faced 11 times already this season.
Corcoran acknowledges it has made the coaching staff’s job easier by having players who all want to be there and want to get better every time they’re on the ice.
“They’re a pretty close group, really,” said the head coach. “They like to have a good time whenever that time comes around, in the dressing room and before practice and before a game, but whenever it comes down to getting on the ice for a practice or getting on the ice for a game, everyone’s all business and serious.”
“The group has worked hard and together to get to where we are at now, going into the Atlantic championships,” added Coach Corcoran.
This is Corcoran’s third year coaching the team and he said he has enjoyed the entire experience. “I really enjoy working at this level and am very appreciative of the hard work and the dedication my players have given me all three seasons.”
Jason Smallman, his assistant coach, is in his first year of coaching. He brings three years of major midget and three years of Junior A playing experience to the team. The team’s trainer is David Clements.
Corcoran reflected on the team’s progression during the regular season. “At the start of the year we were kind of an offensive machine for a while,” he said. “We were scoring six and seven and eight goals a game, but we were giving up a lot of goals, too.” Then they shifted their focus to protecting their own end of the rink, “because we knew that, going in to playoffs and into the Atlantics, we’re not going to be able to run and gun with some teams.”
Besides tightening up on defence, the Regals have benefitted all year from having two consistent netminders, Kristen Clements and Avery Arsenault, essentially taking turns in goal. “I think it helped, because they pushed each other all year to get better in practices and in games,” assessed Corcoran.
The team skated with the same lines for the first part of the season and then shifted them up a bit until the Spud tournament. They’ve stayed pretty consistent since then.
The Spud was another highlight in the Regals’ banner year; they defeated the Saint John Warriors in the championship final of that tournament.
The Regals have been skating with three forward lines and two extra wingers.
The line of Jason Gallant, TJ Shea and Chase McCue have been together most of the year. Shea and Gallant finished high up in the scoring race. Corcoran describes the Nathan Handrahan, Brendan Smith and Brett Aylward as their crash and bang line. “If one of them didn’t hit the guy, the other two guys were going to hit him” They regularly matched up against the top line on the other team.
Curklan Fraser, Jake Arsenault and Brendan Shea, Corcoran said, gave a balanced attack all year and generated some really big goals, especially in the playoffs.
Wingers Jake Getson and Brayden Arsenault saw regular duty with other centers rotating into the line.
The Regals went with four regular defencemen plus affiliates for the last game of the playoffs, Calvin McRae, Jeff Gaudet, Thomas Fraser and Will Stewart. They will start off the Atlantics with the same four until Brandon Williams completes a two-game suspension. They have been without the services of Drake Smallman because of an injury and Corcoran is doubtful if he will be playing this weekend. He will be calling up one or two affiliates to fill the gaps on defence.
The Regals are scheduled to take on their provincial rivals, the Matrix at 8 p.m. Thursday, following the tournament’s opening ceremonies. On Friday, they take on the Newfoundland and Labrador champs, St. John’s Warriors at 1 p.m. and Hockey Nova Scotia’s Bedford Blues at 7 p.m. and they finish off their round robin schedule with a noontime game Saturday against New Brunswick’s Saint John Warriors.
Tournament game times (schedule might have to be adjusted due to Wednesday’s storm and Thursday’s potential blizzard conditions):
Thursday, 1, 4 and 8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m., 1, 4 and 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m., 12 and 3 p.m.
Sunday, bronze medal game at 10 a.m. and gold medal game at 1 p.m.