[attach]3283[/attach]Northern coach Brian Gaw is looking forward to a time where he can select his best nine forwards and four defencemen.
It’s not too far off.
With a total of 30 players on his current roster, cutting it down to the most competitive team will prove daunting.
“Hopefully everybody will be healthy and we’ll have everybody back,” he said of the new year. “Obviously, you can’t dress 30 guys so we’ll have to make some decisions.”
Northern’s bench was short at a Dec. 14 game against Leaside Lancers, with only 13 donning the red, yellow and blue. In-game events didn’t help either in the 6-1 loss.
“We were missing a lot of players and I lost four of them through the course of the game,” he said. “Two guys got injured, one guy obviously got ejected for the accidental hit-from-behind and another kid had to leave to go to work.”
With circumstances beyond his control whittling away his skaters, Gaw admitted there have been challenges to the Red Knights’ 2010-11 campaign.
“It’s been sort of a frustrating season,” he said. “We should be doing better than we are. We are very talented and very young, too.”
The new wave of the Red Knights is what Gaw said impresses him the most. A total of 18 skaters are grade 9s and 10s. That large number has parlayed into some exhibition scrimmages with other unofficial junior teams, including Humberside.
“You can see the size difference out there,” he said, eyes directed toward the ice surface at Ted Reeve Arena.
For instance, a more mature Lancers squad was hacking away at Northern’s goaltender Tyler MacLaine.
But MacLaine’s play is what kept Northern alive, as he remained focused on the task of killing a lengthy powerplay with three Red Knights sitting in the sin bin.
“They did a good job keeping the puck outside,” Gaw said.
Leaside would get their own penalty, and in reply, Northern’s Bryan Feeney tallied the opening marker from Konner Tseramis and Jeff Petroff.
But in the second period, the Lancers would spearhead a campaign to reclaim the lead, starting with Kevin Shier’s mark via Jake Clements and Daniel Carthew.
Shier would be a repeat offender on MacLaine’s doorstep two more times, while teammates Ryan McSpadyn, David Boomer and Jacob Surdi would add singles.
Coming off their first win of the season, Lancers coach Peter Shier said his team will need to work on their cohesion after the holiday break.
“We got off to a slow start and hopefully this will get us back on track a little bit,” he said. “We just need to play more as a team. That’s the big thing.
“Do the little things really well, nothing fancy.”
Still with a wide-open south region, Gaw noted it’s not always the first place team that wins the title.
“We know it’s a short season, but at the same time everybody makes the playoffs and one game — anything can happen,” he said.