Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forging A Championship Identity:

This was in my RBC Cup Newsletter e-mail:

RBC CUP 2014 The Excitement Returns!

A publication of the Vernon RBC Cup Host Committee

November 22, 2013 Volume 2, I ssue 5

Forging a Championship Identity

Statistically, the RBC Cup host team is not a good bet to emerge as national champion. It's happened just 8 times in the 32 years of the current format.

However, in 19 of those 32 years the host team did make it to the championship final game, leading to the conclusion that home ice does indeed afford the home team an advantage.

So what pushes a team over the hump to become the champion of Canadian Jr. A hockey? Having a talented roster is a good starting point, but it's not enough. For example, in 1990 the talented New Westminster Royals waltzed through the tourney while outscoring the opposition 38-12, but they lost 6-5 in overtime to the host Vernon Lakers.

That Laker team had a special identity according to Cam Sylven, who scored the tying and winning goals. "We never, ever gave up," says Sylven. "Even when we were down by three goals in the third to the most talented team in the country, we kept on playing as hard as we could."

The current Vernon host team is developing a similar mindset. In 7 of their 13 wins, they've scored dramatic third period goals to win or to send the game to overtime. Three other games (two OT losses and a tie) have gone to OT because of late Viper comebacks.

Two contests seem to have triggered the comeback mentality. First, on September 25 they scored twice in the third to defeat Penticton 3-1. Then on October 5 in Salmon Arm the Vipers shocked the 'Backs with three snipes in 46 seconds to create a 3-2 win. Since then, the team has gone 9-5-1-2, with eight third period comebacks.

However, in some other games they've given up too many third period markers – seven times they have surrendered three goals in the final frame. That's something that Coach Jason Williamson is determined to prevent in the future.

"We're working toward to becoming a tough defensive team," he says. "Defence wins championships. We have the D-corps in place; now we have to commit to being a hard, ornery team. We've shown spurts of that, and we're becoming more consistent in being a hard-working, aggressive group, forwards included."

The Viper coaches face a bit of a challenge in forging that identity with a talented group of players, most of whom have previously been successful by primarily relying on speed and skill.

Assistant Coach Dave Robinson says "when I played in 2011 we learned that we could win by being structurally sound and by outworking the other team. That's the kind of team we need to be. When we face other talented teams, our work ethic and size will win the day."

"We'll let our guys be creative and have fun, but defence is all about communication, hard work, and attention to detail. You almost have to be like robots. It starts at practice. To be a champion, you have to practice like a champion, doing the right things over and over and over. "

The third key component in building a successful team, says Robinson is having a group of players who like, respect, and play for each other. "This year we have a strong leadership group, which has contributed to a tight-knit group," he says.

Chase McMurphy, the newest Viper, noticed that togetherness when he arrived. "There's really good character here; it's one group, on and off the ice. I've never been on a team like that, so it's really nice to be here."

Demico Hannoun concurs. "Here, it's very much like it was with Surrey when we had that long playoff run last year. Everybody is pretty close here; it didn't take long to get to know each other."

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