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Port Huron pointers for the Nickel City Jr Sons

Coach-speak will almost always insist that championship hockey begins and ends in one's own end of the ice.

Players, especially the relatively young, might espouse beliefs that are somewhat more broad based.

Ultimately, it is clear to one and all that the Nickel City Major Atom "AA" Jr Sons will need to play well at both ends of the rink in order to enjoy some success as they attend the International Silver Stick finals in Sarnia this weekend.

"Overall, what made us very successful at the (regional) Silver Stick was our defensive play in our zone, guys being in the right positions, the defence making the right plays," noted head coach Al Chenier, his team rewarded for their gold medal winning effort from the first leg of this journey back in early December in Sudbury.

"We've continued to emphasize that in the past month, really working on it, getting our "D" to "D" passes going, getting our wingers in the right spot, so that we can get a nice clean breakout."

"If we are sound defensively, we'll be able to compete with anybody out there."

No trouble at all convincing ten year old Brett Rienguette, who unlike his older sibling (Scooter) who toils as a forward with the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, is completely comfortable being more of the gardien of the gate, a defensive defenceman, in the truest sense of the word.

"My brother is faster and he has good hands and everything, to go up and make passes," explained the grade five student at Ecole Foyer-Jeunesse. "I'm more of the guy that stays back more."

That also likely suits his build, the younger Rienguette trending to be more of that bigger physical presence than his more fleet of foot role model. In atom hockey, that kind of size can create some challenges.

"I've got to go right at them, but then pull back a little bit, so I don't hurt them," said Rienguette. "I just kind of let them know that I'm there."

And like his coach, the young blueliner shares in the belief that he and the remaining rearguards can heavily impact the ability for the Jr Sons to generate a transition game that will lead to the offensive opportunities they need to create.

"We pass a lot, "D" to "D", to help make our forwards wide open for the breakout pass," said Rienguette. "At the beginning of the year, we were just starting to know each other, to know how to play together."

"Now, we know what they (his teammates) do, and they know what we do. You know where they are going to be, and when they are going to get there."

If he is looking for smooth-skating winger Hunter Currie, for instance, chances are the talented goal scorer will be in full flight, driving hard through the neutral zone and into opponents' territory.

And while there is where the multi-sport talent is at his most lethal - Currie is also an accomplished lacrosse player - the grade five student at Walden Public Elementary is beginning to understand that elite hockey is a 200 foot game.

"I feel like playing center is easier, defensively, because you get to go all around," said Currie. "We try not to chase them. Let them go around the net and keep them wide, to the outside."

With none of the players or staff having previously attended an International Silver Stick final, Currie and his mates can only assume what they are about to face is another level up from a very challenging age bracket at regionals.

"This feels different," he said. "We are playing against way trickier teams, and we don't know their speed and strengths."

All of which has coach Chenier trying to keep the wins and losses in perspective. "There are extra activities that come with this - the opening ceremonies at a (Sarnia) Sting game, pin exchange for all of the boys," he noted.

"This is a big thing for these kids, at this age. They're very excited, even if they don't really "get" what they are getting themselves into yet. Once we get there, we hope they will meet some people, make somne friends, and play some good hockey.

Rounding out the 2019-2020 Nickel City Major Atom "AA" Jr Sons roster are Blake Chenier, Adrian Potvin, Nico Guenette, Emmet Croome, Gillis O'Daiskey, Jack Deshaw, Keiran McCoy, Anders Watson, Tyler Huffman, Carter McAllister, Leighton Pelletier, Noah Lefrancois, Tye Newton and Logan Bodson.

The Jr Sons will face the Scarborough Young Bruins in their opening encounter, following up with match-ups against the Montgomery Blue Devils (Rockland, Maryland) and the Port Huron Flags (Michigan).

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