Team defense the key for Cobras - GNML update
by Randy Pascal
In an effort to provide a more consistent approach to offering coverage for the wide variety of sports that are highlighted on SudburySports.com, we've decided to include a new feature. Bi-weekly divisional or league updates will offer a wide array of statistical tidbits, roster updates, tournament results for participating teams. The Great North Midget League will be featured every second Tuesday - next update is October 10thValley East Cobras
The Valley East Cobras continue to be the early season surprise of the Great North Midget League, sporting an unbeaten record after five games with a pair of road victories this past weekend. But don't count Cobras head coach Steve Richardson among those surprised with the team's solid start.
The long-time coach in the Valley East system who served as an assistant coach with the Rayside-Balfour Jr Sabrecats one year ago (where his son, defenseman Elliot Richardson played as an underage Major Bantam defenseman), returned to his old stomping grounds for the 2006-07 season, replacing Rick Poitras.
"As a team, we move the puck well and everybody is part of it", notes Richardson. Noting that the Valley East crew has been built on a solid foundation this year working from the net out, Richardson was more than a little pleased with the return of towering netminder Tyler Beskorowany for a second year with the Cobras.
Heading into last fall, Beskorowany was seen by many as the top local 1990-aged goaltender after starring for two seasons with the Onaping Falls Huskies. But playing behind a Cobras team that struggled defensively, both Beskorowany and fellow Valley East goalie Shawn Sirman found it difficult to remain confident as opponents combined to drill 180 regular season goals past the tandem, an even five per game.
Fast forward one year and the Cobras find themselves with just eight goals against in five games, the only team in the GNML with a goals against average below two. "With Tyler, we started out really solid in goal and Mark Wardell has been a pleasant surprise", acknowledged Richardson. You can be sure that Beskorowany would love nothing more than to prove that his 14th round selection by the Owen Sound Attack this past May was the steal of the 2006 draft.
Of course, the improvement on the Cobras' blueline has been noticeable as well as Richardson states that his team has yet to surrender a breakaway in their opening five games. And the team can boast a lineup laden with smooth-skating forwards, despite minimal numbers in part due to injuries.
"We sure would like to have a full roster sooner or later", laughed Richardson. Former Sabrecat Zak McGillis rejoined Valley East this past weekend after missing the opening two weeks with a back injury sustained at the Kingston Frontenacs training camp.
Veteran Matt Demore remains sidelined, likely for another week or two while rearguard Chris Chaput will miss Saturday's home encounter with Timmins sitting out a suspension after the team missed both Gilles Pickard and Tyler Ryan last weekend for the same reason.
The Cobras schedule this week sees the team hosting the Timmins Majors Saturday night before travelling to North Bay Sunday afternoon to face the Trappers.Sudbury Nickel Capitals
The Sudbury Nickel Capitals enjoyed an early weekend off as rookie head coach Peter Michelutti Jr has guided his team to third place in the early going after winning three of their opening four games. According to General Manager Bob MacLean, the Caps head into weekend play in excellent physical shape, with no injuries to report to date.
Only returning forward Mark Baskcomb has missed games to this point due to a family wedding a few weeks back. Sudbury makes their second trip of the young season to North Bay this Saturday, having thumped the Trappers 8-3 back on September 17th.
On Sunday, the team returns to the Countryside Arena to play host to the Timmins Majors who will enter play this coming weekend with a record of 2-1. MacLean confirmed the Nickel Capitals would not see tournament action until early November with the Big Nickel event, heading to Waterloo and Sault Ste Marie for tournaments later in the year.Rayside-Balfour Jr. Sabrecats
The Rayside-Balfour Jr Sabrecats hit the win column for the first time this year, taking the back end of a two-game set against the Kapuskasing Flyers in the league's Northernmost town. On Saturday, the hometown Flyers jumped out to a 5-2 lead before holding on for a 5-4 victory.
Nick Esposto, Owen Peltier, Garrett Nystedt and Daniel Aubut all hit the scoresheet for the Cats, who pulled to within one goal of the Flyers early in the third period but could not solve Kapuskasing netminder Ryley Nadon over the final sixteen minutes.
Sunday's action featured the visiting Sabrecats striking for a pair of power-play goals five minutes apart early in the second period as markers by Tyler Liukkonen and Peltier vaulted Rayside to a 2-0 lead. The Flyers' Scott MacNeil would break Riley Polden's shutout bid with a power-play marker of his own at 13:59 of the middle frame.
The score remained unchanged until Esposto deposited his second goal of the weekend into an empty-net with thirteen seconds remaining as Rayside improves to 1-3-1, good for sixth place in league standings.Northern Lights
The scoring race in the Great North Midget league features two current prevailing themes: i) a logjam of players all in the mix as the top 25 scorers are separated by just three points in the early going; and ii) no lack of local content occupying said list.
Former Timmins resident and current Cobra Alex Fiset is leading the way with nine points, just a point ahead of six others including teammate Jordan Carroll. Rayside-Balfour forwards Nick Esposto and Owen Peltier are also sitting at eight points, joined by Nickel Capitals veteran P.J. Taus who leads the GNML with eight assists.
Goaltending stats show the Valley East tandem of Wardell and Beskorowany sitting one-two while Sudbury's Kevin Reynen is tied for fourth with a goals against average of 2.50