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Zach Dean of Tricom Thunder could be adding to a Newfoundland bantam hockey tradition

Nova Scotia Gulls forward Cameron MacDonald (8) falls to the ice after he was upended during the opening game of the 2018 Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay on Thursday afternoon. Zachary Dean (not shown) of the Tricom Thunder, the Newfoundland and Labrador representatives in the tourney, received a minor penalty on the play. Other players shown are Thunder defenceman Nolan Cleary (5). goalie J.T. Tobin, defenceman Drew Shepphard (77) and forward Ryan Greene (right). The Gulls’ Cooper Davis (2) tries to bat the loose puck in the net on the play, but to no avail. Dean and Greene each scored twice and Tobin made 34 saves as the Thunder won 4-3.
Nova Scotia Gulls forward Cameron MacDonald (8) falls to the ice after he was upended during the opening game of the 2018 Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay on Thursday afternoon. Zachary Dean (not shown) of the Tricom Thunder, the Newfoundland and Labrador representatives in the tourney, received a minor penalty on the play. Other players shown are Thunder defenceman Nolan Cleary (5). goalie J.T. Tobin, defenceman Drew Shepphard (77) and forward Ryan Greene (right). The Gulls’ Cooper Davis (2) tries to bat the loose puck in the net on the play, but to no avail. Dean and Greene each scored twice and Tobin made 34 saves as the Thunder won 4-3. - Joe Gibbons

His coach feels captain of N.L. reps at Atlantic AAA bantam championship in Torbay is among ‘top three’ in the region

The last couple of times Newfoundland and Labrador won the Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship, two years ago and prior to that in 2011, a pair of St. John’s teams were led by a group of players who had established themselves among the best for their age in Atlantic Canada.

At the 2016 bantam Atlantics, Brett Budgell was the tournament MVP and shared the tournament scoring lead as the St. John’s Hitmen won the championship, going 5-0 in Moncton, N.B.
Budgell was just named the Charlottetown Islanders’ rookie of the year following his first season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and figures to go in the 2019 NHL Draft, potentially in one of the top three rounds.
Seven years ago, at the 2011 AAA bantam championship in Quispamsis, N.B., the St. John’s Canadian Tire team also went 5-0, and was led by Clark Bishop, currently of the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers. Bishop was the tournament’s MVP.
The top scorer that year was Nathan Noel, who is currently in his rookie season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel (he was reassigned to Indy this week from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs). And the top defenceman was Cody Donaghey of the ECHL’s Brampton Beast. Tyler Boland also skated for St. John’s, and just finished his rookie season with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds after finishing runner-up for the QMJHL scoring title last year.

Tricom Thunder captain Zach Dean scored twice Thursday as his team edged the Halifax Gulls 4-3 in the opening game of the 2018 Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship. One of the tallies was an empty-netter, but it turned out to be the game-winner as Halifax scored a late goal. —  Twitter/@2018Atlantics
Tricom Thunder captain Zach Dean scored twice Thursday as his team edged the Halifax Gulls 4-3 in the opening game of the 2018 Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship. One of the tallies was an empty-netter, but it turned out to be the game-winner as Halifax scored a late goal. — Twitter/@2018Atlantics


Which leads us to this year’s AAA Atlantic bantam tournament, which opened Thursday at Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena.
Could this tournament be Zach Dean’s coming out party?
“I’m not sure about that,” said Mike Lee, coach of the Tricom Thunder, the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador representative in the four-day tournament, “because I think that’s already happened. A lot of people in hockey know who he is by now.”
The 15-year-old from Mount Pearl is the Thunder’s captain, and is perhaps the best player for his age in the province.
“And I’d say top three in Atlantic Canada,” Lee added.
He led the Newfoundland and Labrador AAA Bantam Hockey League in scoring this season, with 37 goals and 70 points in 32 games, 15 points more than his nearest competitor.
He had a good start to the Atlantic tourney, as he and teammate Ryan Greene each scored twice in a 4-3 win over the Halifax Gulls of Nova Scotia in Thursday’s championship opener.
Daniel Kline had all three goals for the Gulls.
A superb athlete, Dean is a strong skater with quickness, sees the ice well and doesn’t shy away from the physical game.
“He’s always drawn a lot of attention on the ice, but he plays through it,” Lee said. “He’s a player who uses his linemates well.”
Dean skated with the Thunder in the Chronicle Herald East Coast IceJam early in the new year in Halifax, scoring four goals in three round-robin games for the 1-2 Thunder.
He tied for playoff scoring in the provincial AAA bantam loop, with three goals and two assists in three games.
But despite winning MVP and top scorer honours in the regular season, it was the St. John’s Hitmen — officially the host team for the Atlantics — who won the provincial title.
It was a banner season for the Hitmen, who were 30-5-1 during the regular season.
St. John’s travelled outside the province twice this year, to the IceJam and the Moncton AAA Challenge in New Brunswick. The Hitmen were 1-2 in Halifax, but went 4-1 in Moncton, losing 4-3 to The Gulls the semifinal.
“All the games we played in Halifax and Moncton were one- and two-goal games,” said Hitmen coach Doug Jackman, “so we’re right there in the mix.
“I think we’re one of the top teams.”
St. John’s got a little bit of revenge on the Nova Scotians Thursday night as they edged the Gulls — playing their second game of the day —  2-1 in Torbay.
Jackman likes his team from the goaltending out. He has a pair of “six-foot” puckstops in Evan Martin and Will Dyke, and his defence can, “skate and move the puck. We also have a couple of guys who like to stay at home, and play against the other team’s top players.”
If Dean is the top bantam player in the province, Hitmen captain Abby Newhook is certainly the best female player in the province, finishing 13th in bantam league scoring this season with nine goals and 31 points in 38 games.
Already committed to Boston College, Newhook is said to be attending Tabor Academy, a Massachusetts prep school starting next season.
Newhook was the second-highest scorer in the Moncton AAA tournament. She had three goals and five assists in three games.
She got the game-winner Thursday in a contest that saw all the scoring in the first period.
Conor Shortall had the other goal for the Hitmen.
The other game on the opening day of the tourney was also a one-goal affair. It saw the Prince County Warriors of P.E.I. shade the Northwest Bulls of New Brunswick 4-3.

robin.short@thetelegram.com


Schedule
The remaining tournament schedule for the Atlantic AAA bantam hockey championship at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay:

Today
10 a.m., Prince County Warriors (HPEI) vs Tricom Thunder (HNL)
1 p.m., St. John’s Hitmen (HOST) vs North West Bulls (HNB)
4:30 p.m., Prince County Warriors (HPEI) vs The Gulls (HNS)
7:30 p.m., Tricom Thunder (HNL) vs St. John’s Hitmen (HOST)
Saturday
9 a.m., The Gulls (HNS) vs North West Bulls (HNB)
12 p.m., St. John’s Hitmen (HOST) vs Prince County Warriors (HPEI)
3:30 p.m., North West Bulls (HNB) vs Tricom Thunder (HNL)
Sunday
9 a.m., Bronze-medal game
12 p.m., Gold-medal game

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