Rookie rearguards relished chance to play in showcase
James Lanning (4) of the Avalon Division evades a stick-check from a City Division defender during the Kent St. John's Junior Hockey League All-Star game Wednesday night at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay. The Avalon Division won 8-4, registering their first all-star game victory since 2006. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
When selecting players to take part in the Kent St. John’s Junior Hockey League All-Star game, most teams follow a simple formula when submitting names to fill out the Avalon and City division rosters.
Teams traditionally picks their top three scoring forwards, their top two point-producing defencemen and their No. 1 goalie. This tends to result in all-star lineups made up mostly of third-year junior players and overagers.
However, for the 2012 all-star game Wednesday night at the Jack Byrne Arena, a pair of Avalon division coaches bucked the trend, each including a rookie defenceman in their list of six.
The Southern Shore C&W Offshore Breakers selected D.J. Elliott, while the C.B.R. Assante Wealth Management Renegades sent Alex Tulk to the mid-season classic.
“We had some older people, but that’s not really fair,” says Breakers coach and Avalon division assistant Mike Glynn.
“It’s an all-star game, so you send your all-stars.”
Statistically speaking, Elliott hasn’t put up all-star numbers this season — “I don’t know if he had a goal this year,” Glynn says of the diminutive defenceman who has eight assists in 18 games — but his overall play earned him the nod from the Breakers’ coaching staff.
“He’s a standout, good puck-moving defenceman and a good skater,” Glynn says.
“If you watch him, he’s able to get body position on every player in that league and he’ll win the puck, guaranteed.”
Elliot, who played for the Port aux Basques Mariners in the Central-West junior circuit last season, didn’t find out he made the all-star team until this past Friday.
“It’s a little different because last year we didn’t do any of this, so I didn’t know what to expect,” says Elliott, a native of St. Anthony.
“I was just hoping it would be a competitive game instead of just a game of shinny.”
He wasn’t disappointed as the Avalon and City teams played one of the chippiest all-star games in recent history with eight penalties called — four of them roughing , including one to Elliott in the late stages of the third period.
Elliott almost didn’t play Wednesday. The 19-year-old’s paternal grandmother, Shirley Mills, fell seriously ill just days before the game.
“I didn’t really feel up to it,” said Elliot.
“I didn’t know if I would be being disrespectful or if I should be there for her.”
After talking it over with his family, he decided to play.
“I told him she was pretty proud of him,” said his father Darren, in St. John’s to attend to his mother’s needs, “so play for her.”
A privilege to play
When Tulk, a native of Port Saunders, first heard of his selection to the all-star game, he didn’t believe it.
“I was in class and one of the guys texted me, I thought it was a joke. Turns out it’s not,” the 18-year-old said.
“I was told it was all overagers and the older players, so I felt privileged to know I’m able to play with the best in this league.”
Like Elliott, having only arrived in the St. John’s junior league this season, Tulk didn’t know what to expect.
“It was a bit nerve-wracking, I’ve never even seen one of these games before. But just being in the dressing room and being able to play on a team with all the best guys (from the Avalon division) and learn a few things is great.”
Neither Tulk nor Elliot figured into the scoring for the Avalon team, who skated away with an 8-4 win.