In a hotly contested game in St. Lazare, the U18B Blackhawks of the Kahnawake Minor Hockey Association (KMHA) came out on top against the Mercier Braves, sealing their victory 3-2 despite playing the entire overtime shorthanded.
This win secures the Blackhawks’ spot in the quarterfinals of the Ligue de hockey Trente-Ouest (LHTO) President’s Cup.
“We played well as a team,” said head coach Aennase Horne. “We kept the pressure on. It was a tough game. The other team played good as well,” he said of the Braves.
The game got off to a rocky start for the Blackhawks in the first and second periods, but they made a comeback in the third. The players kept getting unfair calls throughout the game, according to Horne, but they pushed through.
“I had to make sure that we’re all hyped for that third period and keep going, don’t stop until that final whistle, no matter what,” said Stone McGregor, 15, who scored the Blackhawks’ second goal. Having lost to the Mercier Braves last year, McGregor was even more determined to turn it around.
McGregor has been playing since Novice, and his dedication to the sport is only growing stronger; he’ll be trying out for a AAA team and is hopeful for the opportunities it’ll bring along.
“I’ve really grown as a player now and I keep going. I’m not really in the box much. I respect the rules of the game. I like playing the game,” he said.
But for now, he’s focused on one thing: “Keep going and keep trying to be a better player,” he said.
“We’ve grown a lot throughout the season. We came a long way,” he said, noting the team finished fourth in their division.
One of the reasons attributed to that success is the additional training sessions on and off the ice – including crossfit – that have yielded major progress for the Blackhawks, who train three times a week.
“It would help us a lot because it helped our cardio and our footwork. And it would always bring us more together at practice,” said McGregor.
One of the sessions was led by trainer Terry McKeon, who is also the team’s assistant coach. “He understands hockey like there’s no tomorrow. He’s very good with the players. He teaches them a lot on the bench, what you can do better,” said Horne.
One downside, however, was the lack of full commitment from all players, since the additional sessions are not mandatory. McKeon’s off-ice training got off to a solid start at the beginning of the season but eventually stopped due to dwindling attendance after the Christmas holidays, according to Horne.
But even so, the training paid off for the players, and it was obvious to spectators watching the game as well.
“I was there on Saturday for their win and their playing, their tossing, their hustle, everything – it was absolutely amazing,” said Lou Ann Stacey, director of the Midget and Bantam divisions at KMHA.
The improvements from implementation of additional training are seen across the board for KMHA’s teams.
“We had asked all the teams to follow working with the on-ice trainers, working off-ice, sending goalies to goalie camps, and they’ve done it. The improvement in the teams has been amazing,” said Stacey.
“When you look at the Blackhawks, the team bonding has become a really big thing,” she added.
With only a few days away from the next game, Horne feels optimistic about the game. “We just have to work hard, work as a team, work together,” he said. “The key is teamwork, passion together, working with each other out there, communicating, knowing where everybody is out there on the ice. It’s always good to have positivity on the bench. That’s what it’s all about.”
McGregor, too, feels ready heading into the upcoming game. “As a team, you’ve always got to be on the same page. You have to always stand up for each other,” he said. “But as an individual, you’ve always got to stay focused and play your part. If you don’t play your part then it affects the whole team’s balance.”
The U18B Blackhawks will be back on the ice on Tuesday, March 28, at College Bourget in Rigaud at 6:30 p.m. against the Hudson/Rigaud/St. Lazare (HRS) Hawks.