© Photo submitted by Brian Donovan
The Avalon boys' ball hockey team for the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games has gone undefeated in all of its exhibition leading up to the Games. Members of the team are: floor (l-r) - Brady Adams and Brent Hatfield (Since photo was taken Hatfield left for baseball and has been replaced by Riley Akerman); middle - Mackenzie Dobbin, Jordan Coombs, Josh Rodgers, Christian Dawe, Ryan Dawson and Matthew Sparkes; back - coach Neil Shute, coach Brian Greeley, Noah Donovan, Joel Petten, Evan Milley, Ryan Glavine, Rodney Slade, Daniel Slade, Andrew Roberts, Bradley Adams and manager Robert Clarke. Trainer Evan Milley and waterboy Riley Shute were unavilable for photo.
If nothing else, the Avalon boys' ball hockey team for the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games will be well conditioned when the Games kick off this Saturday,Aug. 18 in the towns of Harbour Grace and Carbonear.
The team, featuring players from Job's Cove to Placentia, has been in place since last December and has been running regular practices at the Upper Island Cove Recreation Centre since then.
In comparison, the host team led by head coach Matthew Thomey, had a mere 10 weeks to prepare for the Games.
Head coach Neil Shute said the length of time the team has been together will give them a big advantage over the other teams.
"Our biggest advantage is that we are going to be in shape," he said.
Shute said some of his players are already in shape after a grueling winter on the ice.
"A lot of our players have experience playing ice hockey, so they were in pretty good shape to begin with," he said.
All of the players are part of either the CeeBees minor or Bay Arena minor hockey associations.
Even though many of his players were in ice hockey shape, Shute said he has seen an improvement from December till now in the athlete's conditioning.
Christian Dawe, of Upper Island Cove, said the team has really come together since the beginning of training camp.
"For a group of players who have never played together, we're doing pretty good," he said. "We've come a long way."
Dawe re-iterated what Shute said about the team's conditioning - it will be a team strength.
"It's going to be an advantage for us," said Dawe. "I don't think any other team is going to be as conditioned as we will."
The team saw its first action over the July 15 weekend when it met the contingent from Conception Bay South in the regional qualifiers to decide who would represent the Avalon region at the Games.
The representatives from Upper Island Cove took care of business in the play downs, upending CBS in two games and claiming the right to represent the Avalon in the Games.
"I think we're strong and it showed," said Dawe.
Since the qualifier, the team has met the host team in three exhibition games at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, which Dawe said his team has won "by three or four goals."
"Everyone is coming together," he said.
Putting in systems
One thing the long training camp has allowed for the newly-minted Avalon representatives to do is make sure their style of play is what the coaches want the team to play.
"We want to be a hard team to play against," said coach Brian Greeley.
He said the team is going to try and be the first to the ball every time, with aims to keeping it down low.
"We want to win every one-on-one battle," added Greeley.
The coaches recognize they do not want to play a finesse game.
With a mere few days until the opening of the Games, Shute is confident in his team's abilities.
"After having back-to-back wins in the qualifier, our kids are confident that they can play a level high enough to win," he said.