A-E team has five players back from last season
By Pat Payton
Coach Dale Switzer thinks his three balanced lines will drive the Frayne Custom Cabinets A-E Bantams’ attack this 2018-19 season.
Switzer’s Bantams are off to a strong start this fall. A hard-fought 1-1 tie with Strathroy Jr. Rockets last week improved the Rock’s record to 8-2-2 in the Shamrock League standings. It left St. Marys alone in first place, one point ahead of Mt. Brydges Cougars (8-1-1).
“Actually, we’ve been up and down, even though we’ve been winning,” coach Switzer told the Independent in a recent interview. “We had a few weaker opponents at the start of the year, before we kind of got our legs underneath us.
“As the season has gone on, we’ve shuffled the lines two or three times. I think we have some combinations now that seem to be working. It was good timing because that’s when we started seeing the stronger teams.”
All lines have to contribute
All three lines have to contribute, both offensively and defensively, Switzer says.
“We’ve told the kids that we don’t want a scoring line and a checking line. All three lines have to do both, or we just won’t win.”
The well-balanced lines are probably his team’s biggest strength. “We want to go at the other team in waves and keep the pressure on,” the coach says.
Stronger defensive play in their own end–as a six-player unit–is an area Switzer would like to see his Bantams get better at.
“We struggle a little bit when other teams really forecheck us hard,” he noted. “Sometimes it’s the forwards not coming down low (in the defensive zone) to help out. Winning the puck back and the initial transition of getting the puck out of our zone is something we want to improve on right now.”
Five returning players
It’s Switzer’s first season behind the Frayne bench. He has one goalie and four skaters from last year’s A-E Bantam team. The remainder of the squad moved up from the Peewee ranks, including a handful from the ‘BB’ Firefighters who reached the OMHA final.
The rest of the coaching staff is comprised of assistant coaches Brendan Near and Gord Cookson, trainer Kevin Bilyea and manager Norm Penney.
Switzer and company will be taking their team to the Regional Silver Stick tournament in Collingwood this weekend, Nov. 16-18. To start the tourney, they play Penetang, Caledon and Woolwich in round-robin action.
“Right now, we’re playing well. If we clean things up in our own end, I don’t see why we can’t have a good showing up there,” the coach says. “Tonight (Nov. 5) against Strathroy is a good measuring stick because they are also up at Silver Stick in Collingwood.”
In that SHL game against the Jr. Rockets, the teams were deadlocked 0-0 after two periods. After Strathroy opened the scoring early in the third, captain Jake Littlejohn tied it with a low shot from the point.
Jr. Rockets picked up a five-minute major penalty midway through the period, giving St. Marys a lengthy powerplay. The Rock applied good pressure, but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal and had to settle for the tie.
Kiefer MacNeil played well in net for the home team.
2018-19 team roster
The team roster for the 2018-19 Frayne Cabinets A-E Bantams is as follows: Jack Aarts, Kiefer MacNeil, Ian Boyd, Owen Boyd, Chase Carter, Emmett Doupe, Jacob Grant, Jake Littlejohn, RJ Masse, Lucas McCurdy, Gavin Muir, Jake Pfaff, Zach Rooney, Alex Slade, Cam Stapleton and Nathan Switzer.
Note: The Frayne Bantams host Mt. Brydges in league action on Monday, Nov. 19, starting at 8:30 p.m.