LITTLE CURRENT – The boys’ hockey season at MSS is now underway with a new coaching staff and a younger team, offering plenty of opportunities for growth as they glide off to face challenging matches among fellow Rainbow schools.
“I’d say we’re in a rebuilding phase. The normal team for MSS always had a strong component of fifth year players, but we have none this year. With that, we probably have a younger than usual team this year, with more around the Grade 10 level,” said coach Craig Abotossaway.
“There’s lots of other teams that are all fifth-years; we just didn’t happen to have any,” added trainer Rob Marshall.
Mr. Abotossaway and Mr. Marshall are both experienced hockey coaches, though neither has previously given their expertise to an MSS team. They both coached in the Manitoulin Panthers Hockey Association from atom to bantam, up until two years ago. Many of the current MSS players are former members of that team.
“These kids I coached already knew me, so I’m just stepping back in with the familiar kids,” he said.
Mr. Marhsall and Mr. Abotossaway are joined by goal coach Zack Rolston, who has AAA goaltending experience. Mr. Marshall called him a good addition to the team.
The first two exhibition games for the boys Mustangs ultimately ended in losses, though these were still part of the tryout phase, so Mr. Abotossaway said he was not concerned about those outcomes.
“Some of the players that were just on the borderline of being looked at (for the team) got quite a bit of ice time. We wanted to look at those players. When our stronger players were on the ice, they were competitive and we left those games knowing if we played our regular team, the outcomes would be different,” he said.
Mr. Abotossaway said he was excited to get back in the coach position and was looking forward to assisting the team in any way he could throughout the year.
“I’m just glad to be part of allowing opportunities for kids to keep playing hockey at the high school level,” he said.
The Mustangs played their first regular season game, a home game, last Friday, November 8 at the Little Current-Howland Recreation Centre. They faced down Bishop Carter and there was a strong show of fans on hand to support both ends of the ice.
Bishop Carter drew first blood with 4:38 remaining in the first period, but the Mustangs countered with a goal just three minutes and 20 seconds later, scored by Noah Hare and assisted by Cord Hughson and Boston Thibault.
However, Bishop Carter took that first-goal momentum and swept the rest of the game away from the Mustangs. They tipped in three more goals through the second period, followed by two in the third period to leave a final score of 6-1 for Bishop Carter.
“We only had two full lines that game, so we were short a few kids,” said Mr. Marshall. “That threw our game plan off a bit, but they played well.”
He said the result of their first regular season game was hardly indicative of the spirit of the team.
“They’re a good group of kids. They try hard, they’re very competitive and they want to win; that’s a good sign,” said Mr. Marshall.
The 2019-2020 boys Mustangs roster, according to the game sheet from the team’s first in-season showdown, is Lukas Abotossaway, Trent Bell, Maverick Bushey, Jared Cortes, Pierre Debassige, Owen Duncanson, Gabe Hare, Noah Hare, Cord Hughson, Riley Lockyer, Ben Marshall, Nyron Panamick, Boston Thibault, Jacob Wilson, Andrew Hughson, Aaron Leeson, Shannon Debassige and Cole Chandler. Leslie Marshall is the team’s manager.
The Mustangs boys’ hockey team will head to a tournament in North Bay on December 5 and 6.