Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Rookie head coach Ben Duffy liked what he saw in the first half of the hockey season for the Liverpool Privateers, and he has high hopes heading into 2022.
"I think we went into the break pretty strong," said Duffy. "Unfortunately, we lost that last one (5-2 to Capstone), but overall, I think the team's on a good track right now. They are a good group of guys, and when they're on the ice they're extremely focused, so I'm looking forward to what the second half can bring."
The team sits in fourth place in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League's (NSJHL's) Fred Fox division with 17 points, including seven wins, five losses, two overtime losses and one shootout loss after 15 games. It's six points back of the division-leading Sackville Blazers who have 23 points in 18 games played.
The final weekend of action was postponed due to new COVID-19 restrictions, and the postponement of league play has been extended to at least Jan. 10, as announced on the league website Dec. 22. The team has one game scheduled prior to that deadline, a home date against the Pictou County Scotians on Jan. 8.
Duffy doesn't expect schedule interruptions to affect his team in any way, however.
"I think we have the right group of guys and we have what it takes to get it done in the second half."
Moreover, he said, "I think for the most part our leadership on the team is very mature, and they know when they speak up and tell the guys it's time to focus they listen," he said. "They're a team-oriented group of guys. They're going to live their lives with school and work, but when it comes to hockey not a lot needs to be said."
Heading into the second half of the 32-game season, Duffy will be working with the team on becoming a little more defensive-minded, despite being one of the league's stingiest in goals allowed. In the 15 games so far, the team has scored 53 goals (fifth-most in the league) and allowed 49 (lowest in the division).
Rookie Daniel Kline, 18, leads the team in three categories with 10 goals, nine assists and 72 penalty minutes.
While Duffy enthused about "our offensive-minded team," he added, "I think, for the most part, the guys are a little too eager to go on offence ... we just have to realize that the stronger we play defensively, the more chances we're going to get up to the other end and score."
Duffy indicated the team will be spending time working on different systems in the new year, but he admitted it's tough at this level for the team. With everyone living as widespread as they are, it's difficult to get a full team out for one practice a week. Players come from Halifax, Wolfville and Yarmouth. Most Junior B teams do not have that issue, drawing from a larger home base, Duffy noted.
However, he added, "We'll find some way to get those things in. The guys all buy-in to giving that extra effort, so I think we'll be good."
Meanwhile, Duffy, who himself lives in Halifax, said he's enjoying his time with the Privateers so far, and he has high praises for the team executive that includes General Manager Jim Bottomley and President Bruce Inglis.
"It's a professionally-run team. They've all been around the game for a long time and it's pretty easy to go in and have talks with them about the team and their expectations. They lay it on the line, and there's no beating around the bush," he said.
"It's a fun group to be around. I am definitely enjoying it."