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Squeezing in exhibition play between tournament appearances

Coming off a more than respectable 2-2 performance at the 2022 Shanahan International Tournament earlier this month, the Nickel City U13 AAA Sons followed up with a pair of very convincing victories versus the North Bay U14 AA Trappers last weekend in Chelmsford.

Blessed with plenty of offensive punch, coach Corey Crane and company rely on rapid puck movement right across the lineup, including on the back end where Bradley Huffman is but one of a handful of smooth-skating blueliners empowered to rapidly move the puck up ice.

It's a role that he has grown more than a little accustomed to, even as the skill-set for success has been altered over the years.

"I've always been a defenseman," said the 13 year-old grade seven student at Alliance St-Joseph. "I just liked the position - I find it fun. Now, in your defensive zone, you can't just carry the puck out anymore and go to the other end."

"You have to do like a breakout and stuff like that."

Combining the talent from both the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association and Nickel City Hockey Association at this age bracket has seldom been the case in the past 10-15 years - though Huffman is thankful for the way things have turned out, with former friends and foes now merged into a stronger unit.

"If I have future kids, I can tell them that I played AAA Hockey," said Huffman. "It's a good experience. I find it fun because we get a better team out of it. I only knew a few of them (SMHA products) from playing summer hockey."

As for the Shanahan event that assembled no less than 17 teams of 2010 hockey talent, with the Toronto Jr Canadiens ultimately prevailing in the cahmpionship final with a 4-1 win over the Markham Majors, the Sons got rolling early.

Two goal efforts by Dacey Dupuis and Cooper Niquet sparked a 7-3 win over the Windsor Zone, with Preston Hebert, Nick Christakos and Seth Verbiwski chipping in with one goal apiece.

The locals fell just short of a day one sweep, dropping a close 5-4 decision to the London Jr Knights as Dupuis (2) and Niquet were joined on the scoresheet by defenceman Whitney Basso.

A 6-2 loss to The Reps (Toronto) program proved to be toughest setback as Verbiwski and Hebert found the back of the net with their opponents pulling away with three goals in the second period, posting a 3-1 round robin record before being eliminated by the Don Mills Flyers (3-1).

Bouncing back nicely, the Nickel City crew broke a 1-1 tie wide open, scoring three unanswered third period goals of their own to defeat the Halton Hurricanes 4-1 as Hebert (2), Dupuis and Niquet handled the offense.

Rounding out the 2022-2023 Nickel City U13 AAA roster are goaltenders Ty Imbeau and Nicolas Rocca as well as Owen Angus, Ty Belanger, Ezio Cusinato, Greyson Hnatiuk, Malik Jakubo, Jackson Mead, Tayden Smith and Ryan Thompson.

The balance of the team staff includes assistant coaches Todd Crane and Erik Hebert, trainer Joel Belanger and team manager Cindy Robert.

Next up, tournament-wise, is the Vaughan Kings Classic on December 8th to the 11th as the Nickel City Sons compete in a division that also features the Eastern Ontario Wild, Toronto Red Wings, Toronto Titans and Whitby Wildcats.

Also participating in the event will be both the Nickel City U14 AAA Sons as well as the Nickel City U12 AAA Sons, with entries from both North Bay and Sault Ste Marie also on hand.

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