By MATT MOLLOY
Transcontinental Community Newspapers
Fresh off a season that saw them reach the Newfoundland and Labrador Major Midget Hockey League final, the Central IcePak are in the process of selecting this year’s crop of players who the head coach believes can bring the squad to the next level.
Corey Hoffe, who returns behind the IcePak bench for the second consecutive season, likes what he’s seen so far from the IcePak hopefuls.
The team recently finished third in the NLMMHL pre-season tournament in Gander, and considering how much time the team spent on the ice prior to the annual kickoff tournament, Hoffe was extremely pleased with the team’s 2-2 record.
“One of the biggest issues we had was ice time. We had a few hours in Grand Falls-Windsor where we basically played a few round-robin games to see what level the players are at,” said Hoffe. “Really, we had one team practice prior to this tournament, so we’re well behind the eight ball. To come out with a 2-2 record, we’re more than pleased.”
The IcePak won its opening two tournament games by 5-4 and 4-3 scores over the TriPen Lions and Western Kings respectively.
However, the IcePak lost its remaining two games to the St. John’s Maple Leafs and St. John’s Pennecon Privateers by respective scores of 7-1 and 13-0.
Despite the losses to the two St. John’s teams, Hoffe believes the IcePak has what it takes to compete against the league powerhouses.
“We should be very competitive,” said Hoffe. “The two St. John’s teams held a draft this season, so they’re equalled out, and you could see it in their games. They tied their first game 1-1, and the Privateers won the championship game 5-3 (over the Maple Leafs). It seems to be fairly equal, and they’re still going to be strong teams, but I think it should make for a much, much more entertaining league this year.”
The IcePak will open its regular season Oct. 14 against the TriPen Lions at home in Lewisporte. With the opening tilt still 15 days away, Hoffe said last week he would take the next week or two to definitely narrow down his final lineup.
The pre-season tournament helped the head coach determine what players formed chemistry, and which players could end up playing on a line together.