Majors at the midway

December 17, 2022

On one hand, Timmins Majors head coach Steve Polyblank is satisfied with the 8-6-2 record that his Great North Under 18 Hockey League team has heading into the holiday break. On the other hand, Polyblank wants to see more consistency from the Majors in the 2023 segment of the season.

“Pretty good,” Polyblank answered when asked by Hockey News North to assess the first part of the season for the Majors of Timmins. “I like a lot of what we have done so far and we are over .500 which is nice. But if we were just more consistent we would probably have a few more wins. I think we are a top three team in our league when we show what we can do.”

Timmins, with its 8-6-2 record, is one of five teams in the eight member Great North that will be above the .500 level going into the new year. The league-leading Soo Jr. Greyhounds, Kapuskasing Flyers, North Bay U18 Trappers and the youthful Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals are the others.

Polyblank, to be sure, likes what the reigning champion Jr. Greyhounds of Sault Ste. Marie have.

“It is just my opinion but I think this Soo team is even better than what they had last season,” relayed Polyblank. “They are skilled and fast. They have a lot of good older and younger players.”

Alex Hall

As for his Timmins team, which has no less than seven players with 2007 birth dates, Polyblank repeated the inconsistent description.

“We are hit and miss with our scoring and there have been games when we have had to rely too much on our goalies, who have been great for us. Sam (Rudner) and Alex (Hall) have really stepped up for us and kept us in a lot of games. There is no issue there. It all comes down to us as a team being more consistent for all three periods of any given game. We just need to figure it out. I know that we have the ability … I just want to see us put it all together more often than we have. We have lost games that we would have won if we had finished better … did more of the little things better.

“Don’t me wrong … we have a great bunch of kids here and I am enjoying coaching this group,” said the likeable 58-year old Polyblank, who is in his first season as the bench boss in Timmins after a number of years coaching the Majors’ nearby Great North rival New Liskeard Cubs. “Our inconsistency is just frustrating because I do see the upside of what we have as a team. And so I do feel that we can be better than we have been.”

Ian Lachance

Among the Majors seven players with 2007 birth dates are aforementioned goalie Alex Hall, defenseman Cole Ellis and forward Ian Lachance. As Polyblank has praise for the way Hall has performed between the pipes, so too does he have applause and flattery for fellow 15-year old rookies Ellis and Lachance, among others.

“Lachance is steady and has a great work ethic. He is one of our leading scorers (with 10 points) and he thinks he is in a slump because he has just the one goal. He might be having trouble putting the puck in the net but I told him not to worry because he is getting the chances,” Polyblank said of the hard-toiling forward.

As for Ellis, a 6-foot-2, 165 pound defenceman who hails from the remote northern Ontario town of Chapleau, Polyblank referred to him as “an elite player. He is one of the better ’07 (birth year) players in our league.

“He is very patient and is a great skater and the (Ontario Hockey League) scouts have taken notice of him. I would be surprised if he didn’t get picked (at the 2023 OHL priority selections draft.) He might be a later round pick but I do think he will be drafted,” Polyblank said of the skilled defender, who has four goals, three assists, seven points in 16 league games for the Majors.

Cole Ellis

In summation, in describing his team as a whole, Polyblank noted that “we have a lot of young kids who are doing great. I like our team and the character that we have. It is just that consistency that we need going into the second half of the season.”

Besides Lachance and Ellis, other top scorers for the Majors through the 2022 portion of the schedule have been Patrice Lafontaine, Tyson Scott, Shawn Gagnon, Travis Poan and Ryan Armitage. The Majors have scored just 41 goals in their 16 league games to date, however, and Polyblank stressed that “there are times when we get our share of shots on goals but we need to get our guys to create more traffic in front of the other team’s net. If we do more of the little things we can be an even better team in the second half of the season.

“Like I said, I I do like this group. I like the makeup of our team. We have two good goalies and we have players who can perform with the some of the best in the league. There is no issue with the work ethic of our group. Again, it is just that lack of consistency that has been frustrating to me. If we can just become more consistent as a team and keep on pushing then we can be a top three team in what I feel is a really good league,” said the veteran head coach, in a nutshell.

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