Huntsville’s Novice Otters Rep team digs deep and doesn’t give up

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Main photo: Otter Dylan Bennet seen back-checking a Collingwood Blackhawks’ rush

The Huntsville Otters Aquadome Novice rep team may have lost one against the Collingwood Blackhawks but they showed true grit and determination and fought hard to the end. The Otters faced the Blackhawks at the Summit Centre in Huntsville last Sunday, December 3. They took the ice with great determination and four minutes into the first period Avery Shirtliff got the Otters on the scoreboard. Undeterred by the goal, the Blackhawks kept up their speed and stuck to their game-plan: gain the Otter’s zone and direct the puck on goal. From the points, the slot and the corners, the Blackhawks never hesitated to try a shot toward the net.

Otters goalie, Braeden Woolings, did a fine job keeping the puck out of the net but with so many shots coming, and from so many strange angles, it was a matter of time before one went in. Midway through the second period Collingwood’s patience and persistence paid off with three quick goals.

The Otters fought back and had great rushes of their own. Dylan Bennet, as always, was flying out there! Shirtliff made some terrific defensive plays. Carter Quinlan, Logan Sheppard and Braeden Higgs kept breaking up play in the neutral zone to carry the puck into the Collingwood end. There were impressive bursts of action and skillful play coming from all the Otters but as a unit the team seemed to give the Blackhawks a little bit too much time and space to work.

Collingwood scored once more in the third period and then fell back into defense mode. The Otters tried hard but were unable to penetrate the defense in order to get a clean shot toward the net. The game ended with a score of 1-4.

It was one of those games where relying on a dominant star player, or bursts of speed and skill, wouldn’t be enough to carry the team to victory. With so many strong players on both teams it was a game that needed the lines working in sync to spread the offense and defense. Collingwood did this well as nine different players were involved in their goals and assists.

The 1-4 score was not the outcome the Otters wanted but the game produced many positives. The players did more passing, did a nice job clearing their zone safely and were able to get the puck deep into the Blackhawks’ end. It seemed that the Otters had become more strategic, aware of the players around them and anticipated where the play might go next. But on this day the timing was a little off. Meanwhile Collingwood was on their game, energized, and the momentum from the three goal burst in the second took them through the game.

One of the biggest positives to take from the game was the way the Otters responded to the three quick goals scored against them in the second period. It’s easy to be a fighter when winning but the real test is to keep that heart strong even when coming from behind. The boys showed everyone that when you’re wearing an Otters jersey you never lose heart — an Otter plays hard and clean until the end no matter what the score is!

It’s never fun to take a loss like that, especially when the players seemed to be doing all the right things, but if it had to happen then maybe this was the right time. It was only the team’s second loss on home ice this season. After their first loss the Otters responded by winning the next five games at home. That is exactly the sort of statement the Otters want to make again as they go into the Duke Knox Novice Rep Tournament on home ice this coming weekend!

The opening game for the tournament, The Aquadome Novice Rep Otters vs Newmarket Redmen, begins 1 p.m. on Friday. Games will be played the rest of the afternoon on Friday and all day Saturday with the final rounds determined Sunday morning. Go Otters!

Thank you to Boyd Otter of Shooting for the Stars for providing this article and photos. For more images from the Huntsville Otters Novice rep team game or for more information, visit the Shooting for the Stars website by clicking here

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