Sept 29, 2015
Saint John Vito’s Preparing for Telus Cup
The Saint John Vito’s may have the shortest path to the TELUS Cup, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few bumps along the way.
Every Midget team across the country shares a common goal – to earn a spot at Canada’s National Midget Championship, which will be played from April 18-24 in southern New Brunswick.
The Vito’s, as host club, have already secured their entry in the six-team tournament, and that creates some unique challenges for head coach Ken Dobson. His modus operandi at this time of year is to prepare his team for the long season ahead with three goals – win the provincial title, win the Atlantic championship, and advance to the TELUS Cup.
The cart is before the horse this season, however, as the Vito’s will compete in the national tournament no matter what. Dobson wants his players to focus on the usual tasks at hand, although he admits stifling TELUS Cup talk is easier said than done.
“They’re still kids at the end of the day,” Dobson said. “The community is building up hype and everything around it, so they will see it each and every day. We’re going to try to maintain that level of focus and remind them that we have to work and go through the front door.
“As a coaching staff, we’ve modified practice plans and adversity moments. We want to maximize opportunities for learning and development.”
The Vito’s are in pursuit of their second provincial championship in three years. Dobson’s club will be led by second-year captain Will Drummond and alternates Kyle Anderson and Will Kelly.
The other skaters are Cameron Crowell, Ian Smallwood, Tyler Smith, Samuel McGaw, Ben Reid, Ian Keating, Alex Hambly, Matthew Palmer, Anderson MacDonald, Liam Frigault, Alex Lafreniere, Cole Theriault, John Simpson and Kyle Garnett.
The goaltending duties rest with Jake Stewart, who was selected by Blainville-Boisbriand in this year’s QMJHL Entry Draft and attended Canada’s national under-17 development camp, and Mike Parkhill.
Dobson has been to the TELUS Cup twice, as a Hockey Canada administrator. As a coach, he’s not immune to the butterflies.
“I’m excited and I’m nervous,” he admitted. “You know you have it in your back pocket and you don’t want to have any regret for a lack of preparation. Everything we do today is directly related to the TELUS Cup.”
Dobson and assistant coaches Mark MacDonnell, Moe Arseneault, Randy Jones, goalie coach Kyle MacDonald and video coach Maryelle Hannam will guide a group of players who have experience at the national level. Some members of the Vito’s have played in Canadian baseball championships, which is not quite the same as a Hockey Canada event before more than 1,500 fans packed into your home arena.
“They’ve done that on the other side of the country which is a different experience than hosting,” Dobson said. “I still don’t think they understand the magnitude of the event.”
Jones sure does. He was a star defenceman for the Saint John Flames, who represented the Atlantic Region at the 1998 Air Canada Cup in Sudbury, Ont. Jones went on to a solid NHL career, playing 365 games with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Winnipeg.
“He brings a lot of information, a lot of experience to the table,” Dobson said. “As the event gets closer, Randy will help the guys stay in the moment. We will draw on his experience.”
Dobson doesn’t need to be reminded of Atlantic Canada’s difficulties on the national stage. No team from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador has ever won the TELUS Cup. Whether the Vito’s can pull off a historic win at home in April remains to be seen.
“We don’t want to be embarrassed,” Dobson said. “It’s a great sense of accountability. We want to make sure we’re competitive and that we represent our community to the best of our ability and give ourselves a chance to win each and every night.”