Fog Devils turn a lot of heads

Kenn Oliver
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Many impressive performances for third-place St. John's

If hockey scouts weren't taking a long, hard look at Newfoundland-born midget-aged players before, chances are a few more bird dogs will start showing up at rinks around the province next season.

Sunday in Levis, Que., the St. John's Fog Devils won the province's second bronze medal at the national midget championships with a 5-4 win over Quebec's Gaulois du CollÈge Antoine-Girouard. The AAA Maple Leafs, led by tournament MVP Teddy Purcell, finished third in 2003.

If hockey scouts weren't taking a long, hard look at Newfoundland-born midget-aged players before, chances are a few more bird dogs will start showing up at rinks around the province next season.

Sunday in Levis, Que., the St. John's Fog Devils won the province's second bronze medal at the national midget championships with a 5-4 win over Quebec's Gaulois du CollÈge Antoine-Girouard. The AAA Maple Leafs, led by tournament MVP Teddy Purcell, finished third in 2003.

"The scouts have been saying to me this week, 'what the frig is on the go in Newfoundland that a lot of these boys have been overlooked and you can come up here and play with the best in Canada,'" St. John's coach Wally Bray said.

"To be the third team from Atlantic Canada to medal and the second Newfoundland team to get a bronze, they're quite proud of themselves."

For a second straight year, the Notre Dame Hounds of Wilcox, sask, were champions. Notre Dame's roster includes two Newfoundlanders - forward Andrew Ryan of Paradise and defenceman James Melindy of Goulds.

Scoring for St. John's Sunday were Marcus Power, Dylan Brake and Zach O'Brien, with a second-period natural hat trick.

O'Brien finished the tourney with 11 goals and and 17 points, the most recorded by a single player in at least the past eight nationals.

Besides being the tourney's leading scorer, O'Brien was named top forward.

"He took this team on his back this week," Bray said of the five-foot-10 sniper, who will play for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League starting next fall.

"From what I've seen across Canada, those in the Q and those who aren't, I don't think there's anybody as good as him at his age level. I think every team up here went away talking about him."

Notre Dame Hounds' rearguard Slater Koekkoek was MVP and top defenceman.

O'Brien has been a standout for three straight seasons at the local level, but at the nationals, he was intent on showing he belongs with the country's elite prospects.

"Scoring back home is not as competitive, but scoring at big tournaments shows you have the talents," the 17-year-old said. "I just went up and played my game and hoped things would work out for me, and they did."

His standout performance didn't just generate rink chatter among other teams and his peers, but among the many scouts in attendance. After Sunday's game, O'Brien was approached by a San Jose Sharks scout and Bray said the rumours swirling about during the week had O'Brien projected as possible late-round choice in this June's NHL entry draft.

"It's pretty rare to get drafted out of midget," O'Brien said. "But you never know what could happen."

O'Brien pointed to the consistency of defenceman Rodney Mahoney, the leadership of forward Andrew Sullivan - who won the tourney's Esso scholarship - and a "great weekend" from Marcus Power as pivotal to the medal win. Power finished second in tournament scoring with three goals and seven assists.

"But, one of our biggest players, maybe even our biggest, was Scott Bray," O'Brien said of the netminder, who was named the top goaltender after facing nearly 300 shots in 411 minutes of play (backup Scott Walsh's only action came in the final nine minutes of a 7-2 win over Red Deer Optimist Rebels).

"He's one of the fellows scouts were wondering 'what went on here?'" Bray says of the goaltender, who is also his son.

The Newfoundlands team's greatest strengths was a powerplay that connected a tournament-best 28 per cent. At week's end, 16 of the Fog Devils' 28 goals came on the man advantage, including two on Sunday.

The squad was also the least penalized throughout the tourney, taking just 78 minutes over seven games, all minors.

"Everybody up here was quite impressed, including (Murray Costello) past president of Hockey Canada, with how the boys conducted themselves, on and off the ice, calling them the real sportsmen and the real club team.

"They were great ambassadors for the province," Bray says of his charges, almost half of whom closed out their minor hockey careers at the tourney.

With the exception of the goalies and Connor Donaghey, a reserve who dressed for just three games, every Fog Devil had at least one point.

St. John's finished third in round-robin standings with a 2-2-2 record, setting the stage for a semifinal match against Notre Dame. In that game, the Fog Devils were down 3-0 before battling back to tie the game 3-3. However, the Hounds scored twice in the third for a 5-3 win to move on to Sunday afternoon's gold-medal game where they beat the Mississauga, Ont., Reps 3-2.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: AAA Maple Leafs, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, San Jose Sharks NHL Esso Hockey Canada

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland, Notre Dame Atlantic Canada Levis Quebec Mississauga

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Recent comments

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Well, coingrats teams. This only shows that we neede major junior hockey back on the island. Come on Stl john's support our young kids and take back a major junior team ASAP. Our kids deserve the best to make the next step to the pros. Once again well done kids for your outstanding play at the miget level.

  • just a thought
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    So let me get this straight. You took 2 equally talented goalies out of school for a week benched one and allowed him 9 minutes of play and played your son all 7 games and brought back a bronze ( which we won in 2003) when we could have had gold????Congratulations young Walsh for having the strong sense of character tthat helped you put that Fog Devils Jersey on day after day last week . Congratulations young Bray for playing at your best and to you Coach Bray Coach of the Year for showing true leadership skills and sportsmenship. Oh the GOOD OLE HOCKEY GAME!!!

  • Earl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Steve G.,

    When St. John's was awarded a QMJHL team, the Q was also awarded draft rights for Newfoundland players. Before the Q came to Newfoundland any team in the CHL could draft one of our midget players. Ryder played in the Q, as did Clowe, King, and Pardy. Cleary, Druken, and Slaney played in the OHL. Terry Ryan played in the WHL, and Teddy Purcell and Dwayne Norris went the NCAA route.

    Now, since the Q has come (and gone) in Newfoundland, the Q retains exclusive draft rights to Newfoundland-born players. Because of this you won't find any Newfoundland-born players in the OHL or the WHL.

    All the more reason we need a Q team back in St. John's; we get to watch our best junior players play locally as their careers progress.

    Luke Adam (a former Fog Devil) just finished a stellar season in which he was nominated for league-MVP. Too bad we couldn't watch him.

    Another Newfoundlander and former Fog Devil, Alex Wall, will be playing for the Q League championship as a member of the Moncton Wildcats.

  • Franklyn
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Great job, boys! Way to make us proud.

    Wouldn't hold my breath looking for more NFers to be drafted by QMJHL teams though. Newfoundland is out of sight, out of mind for Q teams. We need a team back at Mile One, then we'll see more of our kids get a chance.

    Also a question, why wasn't O'Brien playing in the Q this year? Looks like he didn't have much competition at the midget level.

  • Ted
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Devilsfan - You're an idiot!

  • Devilsfan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    It's great to see NL win at a national competition, but what about show casing all of the talent available on the team ? I just noticed that one of the goalies (Walsh) only played 8 minutes and the coaches son (Bray) played 7 games. Wally mentions that the place was full of scouts but he didn't allow Scot Walsh an opportunity to show his stuff. Is it win at all costs and promote only a few?

    Sad for the Fog Devils if I'm correct!

  • CJ
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    What a great showing for these boys, it was very exciting to watch this event. I am very glad most of the third years like Zack O'Brien stayed and played home this year and have the opportunity to graduate high school with their class. Makes the offers for playing off this island much more alluring when you have a bought of talented educated players and scouts offering $$ for post secondary opportunities.
    Well done fog Devils!

  • Rhonda
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Way to go Fog Devils!

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Perhaps a stipulation to the rule that forces NL players to play in the Q is that the Q must have a team in the province.

  • Earl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    This is absolutely great to read. It's good news that midget hockey is still going strong in St. John's and Newfoundland despite the fact we don't have a junior team anymore. Maybe if a bit of a buzz can be created about the quality of hockey below the professional level we can have another go at a team in the Q.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    This is a fantastic result for our province, To finish 3rd at this elite tournament is a credit to our players and coaches. Congrats to all. Unbelievable we are developing such great players and teams considering our disadvantages in competition , location and lack of funds compared to other areas in Canada.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Well, coingrats teams. This only shows that we neede major junior hockey back on the island. Come on Stl john's support our young kids and take back a major junior team ASAP. Our kids deserve the best to make the next step to the pros. Once again well done kids for your outstanding play at the miget level.

  • just a thought
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    So let me get this straight. You took 2 equally talented goalies out of school for a week benched one and allowed him 9 minutes of play and played your son all 7 games and brought back a bronze ( which we won in 2003) when we could have had gold????Congratulations young Walsh for having the strong sense of character tthat helped you put that Fog Devils Jersey on day after day last week . Congratulations young Bray for playing at your best and to you Coach Bray Coach of the Year for showing true leadership skills and sportsmenship. Oh the GOOD OLE HOCKEY GAME!!!

  • Earl
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Steve G.,

    When St. John's was awarded a QMJHL team, the Q was also awarded draft rights for Newfoundland players. Before the Q came to Newfoundland any team in the CHL could draft one of our midget players. Ryder played in the Q, as did Clowe, King, and Pardy. Cleary, Druken, and Slaney played in the OHL. Terry Ryan played in the WHL, and Teddy Purcell and Dwayne Norris went the NCAA route.

    Now, since the Q has come (and gone) in Newfoundland, the Q retains exclusive draft rights to Newfoundland-born players. Because of this you won't find any Newfoundland-born players in the OHL or the WHL.

    All the more reason we need a Q team back in St. John's; we get to watch our best junior players play locally as their careers progress.

    Luke Adam (a former Fog Devil) just finished a stellar season in which he was nominated for league-MVP. Too bad we couldn't watch him.

    Another Newfoundlander and former Fog Devil, Alex Wall, will be playing for the Q League championship as a member of the Moncton Wildcats.

  • Franklyn
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Great job, boys! Way to make us proud.

    Wouldn't hold my breath looking for more NFers to be drafted by QMJHL teams though. Newfoundland is out of sight, out of mind for Q teams. We need a team back at Mile One, then we'll see more of our kids get a chance.

    Also a question, why wasn't O'Brien playing in the Q this year? Looks like he didn't have much competition at the midget level.

  • Ted
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Devilsfan - You're an idiot!

  • Devilsfan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    It's great to see NL win at a national competition, but what about show casing all of the talent available on the team ? I just noticed that one of the goalies (Walsh) only played 8 minutes and the coaches son (Bray) played 7 games. Wally mentions that the place was full of scouts but he didn't allow Scot Walsh an opportunity to show his stuff. Is it win at all costs and promote only a few?

    Sad for the Fog Devils if I'm correct!

  • CJ
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    What a great showing for these boys, it was very exciting to watch this event. I am very glad most of the third years like Zack O'Brien stayed and played home this year and have the opportunity to graduate high school with their class. Makes the offers for playing off this island much more alluring when you have a bought of talented educated players and scouts offering $$ for post secondary opportunities.
    Well done fog Devils!

  • Rhonda
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Way to go Fog Devils!

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Perhaps a stipulation to the rule that forces NL players to play in the Q is that the Q must have a team in the province.

  • Earl
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    This is absolutely great to read. It's good news that midget hockey is still going strong in St. John's and Newfoundland despite the fact we don't have a junior team anymore. Maybe if a bit of a buzz can be created about the quality of hockey below the professional level we can have another go at a team in the Q.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    This is a fantastic result for our province, To finish 3rd at this elite tournament is a credit to our players and coaches. Congrats to all. Unbelievable we are developing such great players and teams considering our disadvantages in competition , location and lack of funds compared to other areas in Canada.