Only seven games to in the PJHL season for a younger roster
Sunday, October 20, 2019
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER, ON. - It is unusual to see Dorchester Dolphins sitting in the lower half of the standings.
But it is only seven games into the Provincial Junior Hockey League season, so fans of ‘Phin Nation, don't be stressing.
Dorchester has a 4-3-0-0 record and two of those wins have been against the winless Port Stanley Sailors, including a 10-0 shutout, Friday, October 18th, at the Flight Exec Centre.
Contributing to their spot in the standings was starting the schedule three weeks after every other team in the Yeck division. Additionally, this season's roster is younger than past Dolphins' teams.
"This is the first time in Dorchester we've had a younger team. We have younger guys who we are trying to mould into junior hockey players. It is a little bit of a learning curve for them," Dolphins' head coach Mark Steele said. "It's the difference between playing AAA or midget to playing in junior."
The Dolphins have three to five games in hand on every team in the division. Over the seven games played, there have been a variety of highs and lows.
"We were a little too aggressive in some of those games," said Dolphins' captain Brody Smith. "We had a few penalties. That game against Exeter (5-4 loss, October 12th), they had three power play goals. If we stay out of the box, a lot of teams can't take us five on five."
Smith adds players in their first year in the league continue to learn and gain experience.
"Some of the guys are still in their first six or seven games of junior," said Smith. "We have our ups and downs. Our flashes of greatness and flashes of not so great, but if we keep staying on the good track we'll do well. We're going to get there."
Led by Smith, Dylan Buckholz and Ryan Root, a line that combined for 17 points against Port Stanley, along with Caden Faulkner, Noah Small, Dylan Van Dusen and defenceman Braidon Duncan, the Dolphins have the offence to match any team.
"I think five on five we are the best team in the league," Buckholz said. "This league comes down to power plays and penalty kills a lot of the time, so if we can stay out of the box and get those power play goals I think we'll be a fierce contender this year."
Discipline has hampered the Dolphins. The team has been shorthanded on 44 occasions over seven games. The penalty kill ranks fourth in the division, while the power play is number one at 35.3 per cent.
"It's a chippy game, junior C," adds Buckholz. "We have a lot of younger guys with a lot of tenacity, which is good, but we have to teach them how to control it and show them some discipline. We lost to Exeter, but we played a very good game I thought. It just came down to the discipline. We got scored on few times (shorthanded)."
The Dolphins were shorthanded only twice against Port Stanley, while going three for four on the power play.
Buckholz had had four goals and three assists, while Smith scored once and had five assists. Root, Duncan, Small, Faulkner and Van Dusen, also scored. Duncan also drew three assists. Goalie Matt Waller stopped all 17 shots faced for the shutout.
"I thought we did a better job without the puck, which is what we're really preaching. We know what we can do with the puck. We have to be able to do without the puck," Steele said, adding players must understand their defensive responsibilities. "When we turn the puck over, it's knowing what guy is yours."
For Steele, one of the Dolphins' better games over the first seven was a 3-0 road loss against the North Middlesex Stars, September 28th.
"We played really well up in North Midd. We played well enough to win but we just didn't get the breaks. I thought we played a collectively a great game," said Steele. "We played another great game in Lucan (8-1 win)."
Dorchester also beat the division leading Mt. Brydges Bulldogs, 4-2, but fell to the Aylmer Spitfires, 5-4.
The head coach is far from panicking at this point of the season, not even passed Halloween.
"We're starting to get the systems down. We're coming but we're just a little late to the party," Steele said. "Collectively, we have to get better every game and hopefully start seeing more Ws."
The Dolphins have three games in five days, starting with visiting the Thamesford Trojans, Tuesday, October 22nd.
"They (Trojans) should be one of the teams to beat," said Steele. "They have a lot of veterans. It'll be test. We'll get to see where we're at."
The Dolphins host the Aylmer Spitfires, Friday, October 25th, before a return visit to Parkhill to face the Stars, on Saturday.