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Copper Cliff Reds prepare for provincials that are a given
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The Copper Cliff U13 AA Red have the next four months to prepare for OHF (Ontario Hockey Federation) provincials.

Given that they are hosting, there's really not much choice.

And while there might be a little anxiety that accompanies welcoming the very best AA teams in the province to the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex for the weekend of April 22nd to the 24th (2022), there is also a great deal of excitement in the mix as well.

"We didn't feel the added pressure when picking the team, but now that we've had a chance to see where we are at in September, October and November, we know that we have to keep upping the ante, raising the stakes a little bit to make sure that these kids play with a sense of urgency all year," said assistant coach Noah Blackwell.

Also featuring head coach Al Cross and assistant coaches Chad Condratto and Rob Blackwell, this staff is technically working with this particular team for the very first time, though the grouping assisted with the AA/AAA bubble at this age bracket last year.

It's not the first time the quartet have cycled through with a particular squad, most recently with a 2006-born team, with their collective experience providing plenty of material through which an annual plan could be compiled.

"With the kids missing almost a full year of hockey, we knew very well that it was going to be a bit of a development year, so we kind of stripped it down, right to when we started, trying to find out where the strengths and weaknesses were within the group," outlined Blackwell.

From there, it was a matter of designing drills that could address some of the deficiencies. "We had a hard time with the first few games of the season but we're seeing a lot more consistency now," said Blackwell.

"We like where we are at, so far - we're seeing some really good things."

Defenceman Landen Creasey offered an early synopsis of what he has seen from the Reds to date.

"We've been with most of these guys for a while, but there are a couple of new guys, so it was a little different," noted the 12 year old grade 7 student at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School. "It was really exciting just playing hockey again."

"We're perfecting our work at the bluelines, making sure that we're getting pucks into the zone and creating opportunities - just playing good offense and defense."

Benefitting from better than average size, Creasey is a primary target for Copper Cliff forwards, looking to dish off the puck to the point before heading to the net. "I need to get better at hitting the net, not just with my slapshot, but on any shots," he said.

"If there's a guy screening, I like to keep it low for a tip; otherwise, I'll just shoot for the open spots."

And while Blackwell knows that, from a man to man perspective, a matchup with the likes of the Nepean Raiders, or the North York Knights, or the London Jr Knights may prove problematic, there are always ways to even the playing field.

"I think that as long as we get a buy in, we can be one of the better structural teams at the tournament," said the recent graduate of the Sports Administration program at Laurentian University, and a alumnus of the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association himself.

"These kids haven't learned systems, they haven't learned coverage. It's a matter of getting it consistent. It's a matter of being able to do it for three periods, every single game."

That, in a nutshell, is their assignment - one which they now have four months left to complete.

The Copper Cliff U13 AA Reds lineup is made up of Lukah Labrecque, Alex Simons, Nolan Larche, Connor Nicholson, Rylan Aube, Cameron Bernstein, Ryan Corrigan, Hudson Teddy, Declan McGonegal, Harrison Markiewich, Alexander Wierzbicki, Landen Lake, Connor Paris, Max O'Kane, Avery Cassivi, Jonathan Tripodi and Landen Creasey.

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