Hodkinson line returns intact; six players back from last season
By Pat Payton
Coach Dwain Smith says his 2018-19 Firefighter Peewees have loads of speed, skill and hockey knowledge.
“Every one of our kids can skate and handle the puck,” Smith said in a recent interview with the Independent. “I’m amazed at their hockey sense, and the skill goes right through the whole team.”
Smith has six players back from last year’s team, which reached the OMHA ‘BB’ final against Napanee. In addition to the line of centre Ryan Hodkinson and wingers Peyton Lobb and Finn Stewart, other returning players are goalies Carter Froggett and Josh Ballantyne, and defenceman Lucan Vernooy. Hodkinson is team captain.
The Hodkinson trio has sparked the team offensively to date. All three click very well together.
“What’s different from last year is that we don’t have the size on defence,” coach Smith noted. “But all the newcomers have impressed me. Dan Schiedel did a good job with these boys.”
Schiedel coached the St. Marys G&CC Atom ‘BB’ team which reached the provincial final last season as well. A half-dozen of those players have graduated to the Firefighters.
At the present time, coach Smith says he’s going with three lines, four defencemen and a utility player.
In Shamrock League action, the Firefighters are off to a strong 4-0 start (as of Oct. 9). In their first four league starts, they defeated North Middlesex 7-3, South Kent 7-0, Belmont 9-1 and Strathroy 4-0.
In their home-opener win against Belmont, the Hodkinson line combined for 15 points. In their road victory at Strathroy Oct. 9, Hodkinson and Stewart both fired a pair of goals and linemate Lobb contributed three assists.
Josh Ballantyne recorded the shutout. “Josh earned it,” coach Smith reported. “He came up big, stopping all 21 shots (including a breakaway).”
In exhibition, Firefighters split a pair of early-season games with their Mitchell counterparts, winning 3-1 and losing 3-0. They also trounced West London Hawks 11-0 on Oct. 6.
“In that loss to Mitchell, we found we had to work on our own end,” Smith said. “I think we’re going to have to be more diligent in our own end. We can’t be complacent in our own end; we’ve got to get the puck out.”
Entire coaching staff back
The entire Firefighters’ coaching staff returns for a third straight season. Working with Smith are goalie/defenceman coach Steve Shaw, forwards coach Rob McKnight, trainer Sam Thomson and team manager Marty Thomson.
“I think we’re a little deeper as far as offence,” Shaw says. “I’m really optimistic about how we’re going to do this year. We have a great bunch of kids.
“We have the two second-year kids (Froggett and Ballantyne) in net. They’re covering the net and moving well.”
The team will again compete in the Dan Bell Memorial tournament in Gravenhurst/Bracebridge in early November. St. Marys has won this tourney the last two years. “It will be interesting to see how this year’s team stacks up,” coach Smith said.
Firefighters are also entered in tournaments in Mitchell and Delhi, and this year they will compete in the Watford Regional Silver Stick event (the Roy Caley Memorial) the week before Christmas.
2018-19 team roster
The Firefighter ‘BB’ Peewees roster for the 2018-19 season is as follows:
Carter Froggett, Adam Turner, Nate Schiedel, Owen Littlejohn, Ryan Hodkinson, Griffin McGregor, Brock Chessell, Lucan Vernooy, Austin DeBoer, Peyton Lobb, Jayden Tipping, Finn Stewart, Colton Henderson, Grayson Boreham and Josh Ballantyne.