After their first league game, the Blackfalds Tier 4 Bantam Bulldogs showed they have a lot of work ahead of them, but also showed a lot of promise.
This past Saturday the Bulldogs took on the Innisfail Flyers and tied the game 2-2.
Coach Daryl Olfert said he was happy with how the Bulldogs played.
“I thought the kids played well,” said Olfert. “It was a great game.”
The two teams were pretty evenly matched, making for back-and-forth game of hockey. Whenever Blackfalds made an error, Innisfail was quick to try and turn it to the Flyers’ advantage. However, the same went for errors made by Innisfail, where Blackfalds did their best to capitalize on the mistake.
After Innisfail took the lead, Blackfalds made sure to keep themselves in the game. Hustling hard when it mattered most, the Bulldogs tied up the score in the third period and kept it that way for the rest of the game. “There were a few little mistakes, but that’s why we have practices,” said Olfert. He added that the Bulldogs’ work ethic is something that has come out of both practices and games.
Olfert said the team is made up mostly of second-year bantams with a wide variety of skill levels. He added that one of the keys for this team will be matching the stronger players up with the weaker ones to make balanced lines. This also helps the weaker players learn from the stronger ones, said Olfert.
With so many second-year players on the roster, leadership is one of the biggest strengths the team has, said Olfert. He added that many of the older players on the team are working hard to be role models for the less experienced ones.
Goaltending is another strength the Bulldogs have. Olfert said both of the teams’ goalies are exceptional between the pipes. While the team is beginning to gel and work better as a unit, Olfert said there are still some players who try to do everything themselves. He added at the bantam level of hockey, one-man teams don’t work.
“In bantam you can’t do it by yourself because there is going to be somebody bigger and better and they are going to teach you a lesson,” said Olfert.
Motivation is a bit of problem for the team, as it is with many teams at bantam age, said Olfert. He said that the team needs to stay confident in their abilities and keep their morale up. Olfert added this is a challenge for coaches at this age.
“One thing at this age group is you can’t be negative,” said Olfert. “Or they will shut down on you.”
Strength on the stick, making sure there is power behind the Bulldogs shots, is something else the team will need to work on along with playmaking. Olfert said both skills will improve when the players learn to take their time before making a move.
While there is still work to be done, the team shows a lot of promise and there is plenty of season left in which to polish skills. Olfert said the team is already looking like a strong skating team – an invaluable asset to any hockey team.
“They are a fast skating team.”