[attach]3563[/attach]Malvern’s boys hockey team has their eye on the prize, but in order to win the Citys and qualify for OFSAA, coach Brian Spanton said they’ll have to step up their game.
The Black Knights’ 5-0 win Feb. 1 against Northern looked concrete on paper, but with a lack of physicality from all his charges, Spanton said.
“You try to impress upon these guys — every game is important but I think mentally there was a bit of a let-down today,” Spanton said. “We’re a much better team skill-wise than Northern.”
Less than two minutes into the game, Lucas Kupcho, via Stephen Mighton, shot a rebound past Northern netminder Oliver Jacobs.
However, for the remainder of the frame both teams were soft on each other. Malvern’s squad got into the habit of leaning on only their key forwards.
“I think for us to be successful we can’t lean on our two sharp-shooters,” Spanton said. “We need everyone going.
“It’s pretty easy sometimes, especially with young kids, to want to watch your big boys do all the work.”
He noted the younger ones have skilled players like Andrew Hood to learn from.
Northern has been facing their own ice woes, playing with a short bench for most of the season. Though grade 9 goalie Jacobs stood on his head, coach Brian Gaw noticed his charges were out of gas.
In the second period three more goals went past Jacobs, first from Mighton via Riley McRae and Jon Claxton at 7:46. Then Curtis Anderson from Kupcho widened the chasm to a three-goal deficit. Braeden Dale’s goal, with the help of Luke Carter and Anderson, did further damage.
It’s been a frustrating year for Gaw and company, but the highlight has been Jacobs.
“He really showed — for a grade 9 kid playing varsity hockey — he’s really going to help in the future,” Gaw said.
Down 4-0 heading into the third, Northern went with two lines and four defencemen, sitting anyone who was not pulling their weight.
“Basically in between periods, I told them about the lack of physicality they were playing with,” Gaw said. “They were out there going through the motions, pleasure skating almost, and I really challenged them and I guess they took it to heart.”
With more fire on the ice in the third, Malvern had to match the intensity.
Goaltender Matt Barr was game for the Black Knights and kept Northern’s second wind from blowing pucks into his net. On the other end, Anderson helped Barr by netting his second on a wrap-around.
That steadied any jitters the netminder had.
“I just try to stay calm, play the puck, which is one of strengths,” Barr said. “When I’m under attack, I’ll just cover the puck and that gets some players with fresh legs out there.”
Injuries and AAA schedules are atop the list of Spanton’s concerns, but they pale in comparison when it comes to the citys.
Worried about upsets, like their loss to York Mills last year, Spanton is preparing his charges for all scenarios, including bad penalties and a hot goalie.
“We have our eyes on a bigger prize and anything short of getting right down to the city championship will be very disappointing for this crew,” he said.