RSL riding experience into Silver Stick

(Contributed photo) Shown here are the Rideau St. Lawrence Kings major bantam team after winning the region Silver Stick tournament in Pembroke to earn a berth into the Internation Silver Stick championship tourney, starting Jan. 24 in Port Huron.

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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

That’s the adage the Rideau St. Lawrence Kings major bantam team are living by as they get ready for the International Silver Stick championship tournament, which starts Jan. 24 in Port Huron.

The Kings earned their spot when they won the finale at the Pembroke-hosted regional Silver Stick tourney in November.

RSL head coach Terry Gray said his team, “sneaked into the semifinal” at the Pembroke tournament. They finished the roundrobin with a 1-1-1 record, unable to pull out wins in a couple of games where, “we didn’t play our best,” added Gray.

Once they got into the tournament’s playoffs, said the coach, the returning players’experience from being at the Silver Stick last year took over.

Things still weren’t easy, though.

The Kings won their semifinal in overtime. In the final they trailed by a goal with two minutes left before they found the back of the net twice within the little time remaining in regulation.

Although it’s not exactly the way RSL wanted to get into the International Silver Stick tourney, it gave them a blueprint of what needs to get done to have any kind of success in Port Huron.

“We haven’t played like that (like in the round robin) again in the season, which is good. We’ve been playing well since then,” said forward Ethan Wooller, who has 17 goals and 22 assists in 24 games this season with the Kings.

This is the second straight year this AA Kings team, last season as minor bantams, earned a spot in the Silver Stick championship tournament. RSL made it all they way to the International tournament’s semifinal last year before their run ended. Getting back to the competition has always been high up on the Kings list of potential accomplishments for this season.

RSL had five players move on to AAA this season that played on last year’s team. The chemistry has been there right from the start of the season with all the new players, said Gray.

The Kings haven’t played against any of their opponents in the upcoming Silver Stick competition. They’ll start the tourney off against the San Diego Saints and then follow it up with the Howard Huskies and Port Huron Flags. RSL doesn’t know how potent their opponents’offence are or how much of a brick wall their defences will be. At the very least, RSL knows they have an edge over everyone else because they’ve played at the top level of Silver Stick before and have been somewhat successful.

“It’s one of those tournaments where if you lose you’re almost eliminated. If you lose two games then you’re done. You have to compete and be ready to go all the time,” said Gray.

The expectations are somewhat loose for RSL.

The Kings are, obviously, going into the Silver Stick looking to win. They also have their eyes on going up against top-end clubs from all over North America, which should help them get ready for the HEO Minor AA-A playoffs starting in early February.

RSL is currently ranked third in the HEO with a 14-5-5 record and boast the second-most goals in the league. The Kings are also ranked fourth in all of Ontario, according to MyHockey rankings, which tallies up a team’s regular season and tournament games.

“Just the will to want to compete has been there,” said Gray about this year’s team. “That’s pretty much what’s working – the work ethic.”

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