It was quite the sight to see on Thursday night at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena in Port Hardy.
A total of 17 skaters and three goaltenders were on the ice attending the North Island Midget Eagles tryouts, all looking to earn a place on the roster of what should be a very competitive rep hockey team this season.
“After a lost season for the midgets last year, the group this year looks energized and excited,” said coach Ryan Handley, who noted the three goaltenders they have trying out include last year’s BC Championships top ranked Tier 3 goaltender and silver medalist Griffin Handley, third year midget goaltender Alan Townsend (who is coming off a serious back ailment that cost him all of last season), and third year female midget goaltender Avary Miller.
Miller spent the past few seasons playing for the Tri-Port Midget Wild girls team, and Handley noted she brings a “hard working business-like attitude to the team,” adding, “There’s a buzz and a feeling of excitement around the group right now, this is it for some of these kids and I’ve told them to commit to the next seven months and give it everything they have.”
The coaches will be looking to trim the roster down to 15 skaters and two goalies by Friday of next week. The decision on who gets cut will be a tough one to make for Handley and assistant coach Dino Datos.
“Releases are extremely tough on everyone,” said Handley. “As coaches sitting there and looking a player in the eye and saying ‘I’m sorry, you haven’t made the team’ is something we don’t take lightly and it’s very painful because you create bonds and friendships with these kids over the years, but it’s also a part of the process and hopefully it fuels them for the future.”
The North Island Midget Eagles will get down to business right off the bat with two quick practices Sept. 7-8, and then they travel down to Port Alberni on Sept. 14 for the first exhibition game of the season.
“We are all anxious to get going and see what we have, and from what I’ve seen so far, we should be in great shape,” confirmed Handley.