Defending champs are a tidy sum of their parts

Robin
Robin Short
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This year's St. John's team brings a different look to tournament

The St. John's Fog Devils won't be torching any teams with a barrage of goals this weekend in Gander, or smothering the opposition in a defensive blanket, or running Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. out of the rink.

But what the Fog Devils will bring to the Atlantic major midget hockey championship, starting today at the Gander Community Centre, is a pretty tidy all-round package.

Zack O'Brien led the St. John's Fog Devils major midgets in scoring this season, with 36 goals and 25 assists for 61 points. Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The St. John's Fog Devils won't be torching any teams with a barrage of goals this weekend in Gander, or smothering the opposition in a defensive blanket, or running Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. out of the rink.

But what the Fog Devils will bring to the Atlantic major midget hockey championship, starting today at the Gander Community Centre, is a pretty tidy all-round package.

"I think we have a pretty good combination," Fog Devils coach Rick Babstock said. "We have pretty good speed, we play well in our own zone, we play well in the offensive zone and we move the puck around pretty good.

"Are we a run and gun club? I don't think so. We have some guys with good offensive skills and some guys with good defensive skills. We're not overly big, quick or tough.

"But," he added, "there are a lot of aspects in our game that hopefully our competition will have a job to handle."

The Fog Devils join host Central IcePak, Nova Scotia's Cole Harbour McCain's, the Fredericton Canadiens of New Brunswick and P.E.I.'s Charlottetown Islanders in the event, with the winner representing the region in the Telus Cup national championship April 21-27 in Arnprior, Ont.

The Fog Devils (formerly Maple Leafs) are seeking a third straight Atlantic crown. Last season, St. John's beat Dartmouth Subways 3-2 in the final in P.E.I.

St. John's was fifth at the nationals last year in Red Deer, Alta., after finishing in a tie for fourth at the '06 nationals in P.E.I.

This was considered somewhat of a rebuilding year with 10 first-year players. In fact, leading scorer Zack O'Brien is a rookie.

"When you lose guys to the (junior) draft," said Babstock, who has produced a bevy of major junior players and a few NHLers (Ryane Clowe, Teddy Purcell), "you don't usually get them the third year.

"We're not the most experienced team in the world, but, I mean, this is midget hockey."

The Fog Devils lost 4-3 to Fredericton at the Monctonian tournament earlier this season after allowing three power-play goals. At a tournament in Gatineau, Que., St. John's dropped a 1-0 decision to Cole Harbour in the semifinals.

Babstock will rotate his goaltending duo of rookie Scott Bray and Andrew Caines, who registered a win and a tie in the Atlantics last year. Patrick Parfrey and Jeff MacRoberts, draft picks of the QMJHL's St. John's Fog Devils, anchor the blueline. O'Brien will lead the forwards and will be supported by Brandon McDonald, Jon Caul and Steve Brazil.

"Do we have someone like Luke Adam?" asked Babstock, referring to the former St. John's midget hockey player who blossomed in the QMJHL this season.

"I don't think so. But we have a couple of kids that are close.

"We don't rely on one guy. Haven't all season."

The Fog Devils open the tournament 1 p.m. today against Cole Harbour. Central plays Cole Harbour at 8 p.m.

The final is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Gander Community Centre, Telus, Maple Leafs

Geographic location: St. John's, P.E.I., Nova Scotia New Brunswick Gander Arnprior Red Deer Fredericton Gatineau

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