The Terrace Peewee Minor Hockey team dominated at a recent tournament here in Terrace, but coach Brad Andersen says they have bigger competition ahead.
In five games against teams from Smithers, Vanderhoof, Prince Rupert, and a regional Bantam girls team, Terrace peewees scored 56 goals and let in only eight goals all weekend, Oct. 21-23.
Team manager Blaine Kluss said Terrace’s solid victories at the Cliff Sharples Memorial Tournament is a combination of having weaker competition in the peewee division this year, and having a well-balanced team of players.
“This particular group is a little bit exceptional — a little bit exceptional — in its depth,” Kluss said, adding that the whole roster is balanced with fairly adept players.
“From the top forward down to the bottom forward, there’s not a massive discrepancy in talent, and it’s the same with our defence,” he said, adding that it seems this might just be one of those dominant seasons.
“Sometimes you just get that right group together,” he said. “At least in the early onset, [it seems] this might just be one of those groups.”
Yet, while praising the team’s speed and goal scoring, Kluss said that it’s a whole combination of things, including teamwork, coaching, and level of competition, have come together so far this year.
“The competition does not seem particularly strong this year,” he said, explaining how that’s a large part of the reason for the team’s blowout wins.
Coach Andersen said much the same.
While proud of the boys, Andersen said the competition here in the north isn’t much of a challenge this year.
As a coach, he hopes that the blowout victories won’t cause the team to get sloppy.
“My concern is to try to get the kids not to pick up bad habits,” he said.
He also doesn’t want to see them get too elated by the wins, so that they crash when they suffer losses in the future.
“When we go play tier two, we are probably going to lose some games… I don’t want [the team] to get so high right now that they won’t be able to accept losing,” he said.
Andersen says the Terrace peewees, a tier three team, will travel to compete in several higher-level tournaments later this season, where they will compete with stronger teams, including some in tier two who come from larger communities.
Back in early-October at a Smithers tournament, Terrace had a chance to face off against Sunshine Coast, a strong team from Sechelt and the surrounding area in the Lower Mainland.
Terrace played them first in the round robin, seizing a 4-1 lead early in the game. But Sunshine Coast came back in the third period to tie up the game 5-5.
Later in the finals, Terrace challenged them again, with results playing out in a similar fashion, taking an early lead, but then losing it in the third period.
“We had them 3-1, and they came back and beat us 5-3,” Andersen said.
They were both tight, strong games and Terrace only narrowly took the loss, and still earned second place.
Reflecting on the season thus far, manager Kluss said the strength of the Terrace peewees is their speed and goal scoring.
“We score goals, that’s our biggest stick,” he said, adding that he calls it a “high-octane offence” because the team makes lots of attacks.
But it’s more than that too, he said.
“We’re a very good skating team. We run three good attacking lines, and it’s supported by what I consider a pretty mobile defence. They skate well.”
Kluss said it seems the whole roster skates well and moves fast.
“Other teams have 2-4 guys who can move, we have 12-13 who can all skate. That’s our thing: We are fast,” he said.
Coach Andersen said the same, commenting that each player executes his role and plays together well.
“The kids have been together a long time, and they’re a pretty tight group,” he said.
“They have good positional play, and they play as a team.”
As they progress into the rest of their season, Kluss said one thing the team could work on is coming out strong in their games.
“I think we need to work on coming out at the start of the game with more intensity,” he said. “Not that we are slow starters, but we could start games a little better. We tend to build momentum as the game goes on.”
However, Kluss acknowledged that it was great to see the team step it up when they faced Sunshine Coast early this year.
“In all the other games that we have played against weaker teams, we have come out a little slow and then by the third period we are scoring goal after goal after goal.”
But against Sunshine Coast, knowing it’s tougher competition, the team did rise to the occasion,
“We did come out with intensity early, and that’s a great sign,” he said.
More opportunities to step up their game are coming later this season, and Terrace peewees are travelling to Winfield near Kelowna for a championship Nov. 18-19.