Red Hawk Hockey girds for busy season
By terrance Gavan Editor – reprinted from Voice Sports
Lot of familiar faces skating around the old Dysart Barn last Monday evening.
The Hal High Red Hawks were on the ice preparing for their home opener which goes down today (Thursday Nov 25) at 1:15 pm.
The Hawks are deep.
Returning vets literally falling from the old rafters at the Dysart et al Arena.
That of course a good thing.
High school hockey is not known for the continuity of its programs.
Bumper crops are rare.
Especially rare on the heels of a very successful season.
So as another Kawartha Schoolboy season begins, we should take a peek back at last year. The Hawks had a stellar undefeated season – 12-0-1 – a Kawartha championship, a COSSA silver and a ride to the OFSAA tourney in St Catherines in 2009-10.
With an unprecedented and dedicated phalanx of returning players is there a chance that the Hawks could return to the OFSAAs again this year?
On paper they have the tools.
And that’s the good news for head coach Ron Yake.
This year, with the retirement of the old coach Gary Brohman – newly installed school board trustee – Yake went looking for a new assistant.
He didn’t have to go very far to find him.
Helping out with the logistical duties this year is another familiar face, coach Bruce Griffith, who will also be helping Hal High Principal Dan Marsden with coaching chores in girls hockey.
Just a hunch, but this ink-stained wretch estimates that we’ll be using the informal Bruce and Ron a lot in print this season.
Returning for his victory lap (cohort campaign) this year is Bruce’s son Scott Griffith and he is joined at forward by a pair of Yakes, Brett and Brandon.
Those three alone make up a pretty formidable trio of returnees.
But says Ron, that’s only the tip of a top heavy iceberg.
“We have quite a few returning players,” says Ron. “On defense we have Drew Paul, Mark Vasey, Zach Boice and Greg Clements. Now Greg played forward last year, but he’s playing back this year. And up front we have Scott, Keaton Gadway, Brandon, Brett, Ian Bottum, Ashton Hailey, and Carson Roberts.”
And that, for the record, is an astounding number of returning players for a high school team.
Coach Yake is trying hard not to smile as he goes through the names.
On paper this Red Hawk team figures to be very, very good.
Ron Yake and Bruce Griffith will be the first to remind you however that the game of hockey is played on ice and not on a sheet of foolscap.
New players include Chris Judge on defense and up front is Chad Larue a Grade 12 transfer from Barrie.
Jordan Howe is an incoming grade 10 player who also plays Triple A down in Lindsay.
And yes, the Hawks will be without their two bookends in goal Alex Monk-Cray and Paddy Manuge.
However, goaltenders Zach Harrison and Andrew Elia have been waiting in the wings for years awaiting their shot.
This year they will be asked to bulwark a strong defense, and a potent forward attack.
“We’ve got probably the most returning players that I’ve ever had,” says Yake.
Now that didn’t help the Hawks last Friday.
The Hawks went to Fenelon Falls for a pair of exhibitions against the Falcons and Lakefield College.
They lost to Fenelon (a Triple A team) 3-0 and they tied Lakefield 4-4.
They’ll place that footnote on the backburner as they prepare for the season opener today.
At practice on Monday they were working on neutral zone assignments, power play sets and moving the puck aggressively from their own end.
A lot of this pre-season work stresses thinking, muscle memory and systems.
Yake says he’d like to keep their minds off of result oriented play and back to instincts, movement and flow.
It’ll be hard, because Yake and Griffith aren’t the only guys on the team that have to try to put last year’s successes behind them.
New season, new challenges.
“We’re looking for good things to happen but as I’ve warned them, this is a long journey,” says Yake. “They’ve got to be ready to go hard all the way.
“Our goal in each game is to eliminate giving the other teams easy opportunities. So if we can hold teams to two goals – and that’s possible in high school hockey – then we’ll have a chance at winning each game and we should have enough firepower to score three or four goals even against the good teams.”
Yake says that because most of these same guys are familiar with the system and know the opposition and what it takes to put a string of wins together, they should never lack confidence even in the close contests.
“Our philosophy will be to reduce mistakes, and instill in them the same confidence that they showed last year,” says Yake. “They saw success last year so hopefully they’ll be able to use that and bring their game up that one little bit.”
If they don’t, it certainly won’t be for lack of work.
The team leaves Sunday for Ottawa and a 10 team tourney that starts Monday and ends Tuesday (Nov 29-30).
Then on December 16-18 they will be traveling to Lake Placid, New York for the annual McKerlie Classic. “I took a team there back in 1993 and we had a great time there,” says Yake. “We actually won it. So it’s our first time back there in a while.”
The 12-team Kawartha League has been divided into two divisions this year. So instead of playing a full round robin, the Hawks will be embroiled in their own six team northern division.
“We play Thomas A Stewart three times and St Thomas Aquinas three times so it’s a different season from last year,” says Yake. “Sometimes that can carry a few issues or carryovers, but we’ll have to see how that works out over a season.”
Next home game after today’s opener is slated for next Friday Dec 3 at 4 pm versus Thomas A Stewart.
For updates on the Ottawa tourney go to bellsensplex.ca and hit the tournament button.
Live updates will be posted.
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