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Coach Blanchard and the Sons in no rush for tournament play
2023-09-23

No stranger to coaching "AAA" hockey in northern Ontario, Trevor Blanchard is more than a little accustomed to the traditional early bird tournaments that typically dot the calendar of most teams in the month of September.

Not this year, however, for the former OHLer and new head coach of the Nickel City U15 AAA Sons.

"Over the years, I have raced to put my entry into the (Toronto) Red Wings Tournament and others in September," Blanchard stated, shortly after practice earler this week at the Carmichael Arena.

"This year, I knew that I had a group that is willing to work hard and is going to work hard - but we do have a lot of work to do in learning new things. Giving us a couple of extra months before we head down south and play some top end teams is a decision that we made as a staff - and I think it's definitely going to benefit us."

Team captain Harry Yeamans is just one of those hard-working players that Blanchard alluded to.

A member of the Sudbury "AAA" Wolves program for a few years now, including when the two teams were combined into one in 2022-2023, the 15 year-old rearguard has already noticed a bit of a change in the atmosphere around the team as Blanchard and staff work through the early season building blocks aimed at producing key wins in February and March.

"He (Blanchard) has a really good attention to detail, points out mistakes and fixes them before they get to be a habit," said Yeamans. "It stops bad habits from happening."

It also serves as an attention-grabber for a 2009 age bracket that have traditionally seen teams from Sault Ste Marie and North Bay battle it out for NOHL (Northern Ontario "AAA" Hockey League) supremacy.

"I feel like there are bigger expectations this year," said Yeamans. "We were pretty bad the last two years. It's mostly consistency. Each game, we seemed to have a different problem: offense, defense, goaltending."

By contrast, the Sons posted a very respectable record of 2-2-0 at the recent NOHL Showcase, with both of their losses coming by just one goal (3-2 to both the Soo Jr Greyhounds and the North Central Predators).

"I thought we played pretty good, a lot better than last year," said Yeamans. "Every game was close - but we have to learn to win close games. We pulled the goalie a couple of times and almost scored, hit the goalie's facemask - but we just couldn't bury in the end."

Not that coach Blanchard is tremendously concerned, in the least.

"We did see some early execution on things that we have touched on in the early days," he noted. "We are really going to have to work on reinforcing new habits, molding new staff that we want to do as a staff to be successful towards the middle and end of the season."

"But the biggest thing we all agree on was that the level of compete was there," Blanchard added. "Other than one period against Timmins, we were competing and working - and every kid was going out there and giving his absolute best."

Joining Yeamans in the 2023-2024 U15 AAA Sons' lineup are Landen Lake-Rego, Leighton Pelletier, Mikael Guerin, Robert Landry, Sam Piette, Tanner Morris, Carter McAllister, Carter Brownlee, Gillis O'Daiskey, Grady Dale, Carson Jewitt, Hunter Currie, Janssen Fransen, Ty Dubreuil and goaltenders Tyson McMahon and Owen Lamothe.

Nickel City kicks off league play at home, welcoming the Timmins U15 AAA Majors to Sudbury on the weekend of October 14th/15th but then hitting the road the next two weekends in a row, facing the North Bay Trappers (October 21st/22nd) and a rematch with Timmins (October 28th/29th).

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