Don't call the St. John's Maple Leafs underdogs.
Darren Halloran, coach of the major midget hockey team, won't have any of it.
Despite the fact the Leafs lost four of six games against their capital-city rivals, St. John's Pennecon Privateers, and trail the Privateers the 2-0 in the provincial final, Halloran believes his team is just as good, and will prove it.
"I wouldn't say we're the underdogs. If you look at both lineups, any team can come out on top on any given day," said Halloran, though he acknowledges a few of the Privateers wins this season were blowouts.
Halloran points out, that among the Leafs, Brandon Pye won the league scoring title, Chris Mallard was chosen the most sportsmanlike and effective player and Kyle Tibbo was named rookie of the year in the provincial major midget league.
"We've got consistency throughout our lineup, but we've had a lot of bad luck. We haven't had a full lineup all season long. However, you have to give credit to Pennecon," he added.
Game 3 in the provincial final goes 8:30 p.m. tonight at Capital Hyundai Arena, with Game 4 slated for 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon at the same rink.
Halloran insists his team isn't out of the provincial final, and he don't think the Leafs are the underdogs going into the upcoming Atlantic major midget championship
The Leafs and Privateers have already secured berths in the Atlantics, set for the Jack Byrne Arena, March 29-April 1. The Privateers (who will be profiled in next Saturday's Telegram) are the provincial representatives and the Maple Leafs are listed as hosts, but Halloran would prefer going in as Newfoundland champions.
"Having a bye to the Atlantics makes it a bit more difficult for the coaching staff to motivate the players," Halloran admitted.
"But, at the end of the day, you have to have some pride and I believe our players have it."
He feels having the provincial title under their belts would give his team a definite lift.
Halloran said his team has good balance, which is its strength.
"We've got two lines that can score on any given shift, a great third shutdown line and the fourth line that gives us the same effort every game.
"When you are picking a team, you look for that balance," he added.
"Everyone is giving the same effort. We've got a lot of leaders on this team, starting with our captain Connor Donaghey. We've got a bunch of guys who could be captain," he said.
Halloran said his team is the type that likes to be comfortable.
"They are a loose group. If you get them too tight, they don't respond well."
He also said they when they are not responding well, it usually leads to penalties.
"We've been a little bit undisciplined against Pennecon. The boys realize the problem, but they are turning that around.
"Five-on-five," he said, "we know we can compete with them."
For the past number of years, St. John's had only one major midget team, operating out of the Goulds Arena. But given the capital city's dominance year after year, the decision was made to go with two city teams.
The Leafs and Privateers' rosters were decided by a draft before the season. For the draft for the 2012-13 campaign, each TEAM is expected each team will able to protect 10 core players.
Halloran said it wasn't as difficult as one might expect in picking a roster for the Maple Leafs because he was already aware of most of the players eligible.
Regardless, Halloran says, he went with a younger team and picked players he felt would improve as the season went on, and peak for the provincials and Atlantics.
He said that idea has pretty much worked out.
The winner of the Atlantic championship will represent the region at the Telus Cup national midget championship in Leduc, Alta., April 23-29.