Statesmen travel north for Junior training and competition.
At the end of their intensive four day training camp, the Virginia Statesmen
of the Empire Junior B Hockey League traveled up to Canada to further train
and compete with their Junior A affiliate the Blind River Beavers of the
NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior "A" Hockey League).
The weekend training series consisted of professionally organized strength
and fitness testing along with on ice practices, inter-squad scrimmage
games and an exhibition game against the Beavers.
The pre-season trip provided the top Statesmen team with a great opportunity
to create friendships and further develop team unity. Veteran leader and
team captain Mike Rudmann made sure to take advantage as he brought his
team together ensuring that they will be well prepared for their inaugural
season in the Empire league.
The practices and inter-squad scrimmages provided the Statesmen players
with the assurance and confidence that they have the ability to excel at
the Junior B level. During the off-ice testing, Jason Klauka recorded the
best time in the 1.5 mile run. The Blind River organization was very impressed
by the level of play provided by the Statesmen players. "There are
more than a handful of players that can definitely compete at this level"
commented Beavers Director of Player Development Charly Murray. The NOJHL
restricts the number of import players each team is allowed to roster to
eight, meaning that in order to earn a spot as an import player you must
be in the top end of the team roster. Offensive minded, Ryan Dove who is
the all time leading scorer of the NVSHL (Northern Virginia Scholastic
Hockey League) sparked some interest from the Junior "A" team
however Ryan has decided to finish his high school in Virginia before exploring
further hockey opportunities.
Although the Statesmen fell convincingly to the Beavers 8-1, they did compete
and felt that they earned the respect of their Junior "A" affiliate.
The Beavers dressed their full roster to play the Statesmen. That alone
was an accomplishment for the Statesmen as the Beavers had originally planned
to dress only prospects for the exhibition contest. The Sunday game was
officiated by experienced OHL (Ontario Hockey League) referees. The Statesmen
had a difficult time adjusting to the new 2006-2007 rules as they racked
up 44 minutes of minor penalties, the majority of these infractions would
not have been called under the 2005-2006 junior standards. General Manager
Paul Veillette commented on the statesmen penalty minutes - "We were
playing a better team, and because our opponents were stronger and more
experienced they often had possession of the puck meaning we were chasing
them and getting called for minor penalties." Because so many penalties
were called in the contest the Statesmen were never able to really get
into the flow of the game. Veillette said that the experience was great
for his team and only wishes they would have had more opportunity to play
full strength. "I think if we would have had the time to play more
five on five hockey the team would have benefited from the systems that
head coach Derek Comeau and associate coach Dean Evason of the NHL Washington
Capitals have implemented over the summer." "We must adjust now
that the game has changed, the sooner we realize this the sooner we will
be able to excel."
The Virginia Statesmen would like to thank the entire
Beavers organization for a great experience and look forward to opening
their inaugural season in the Empire Junior Hockey League on Labor Day
weekend against the Tri-State Selects.