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Virginia 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.

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