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Boyle Bantams are ready to 'Blaze' a trail

The Boyle Blazers bantam hockey team is ready for a challenge. Which is good, considering where they’re headed. The bantam boys are on their way to Coronation this weekend for the provincial championships.

The Boyle Blazers bantam hockey team is ready for a challenge.

Which is good, considering where they’re headed.

The bantam boys are on their way to Coronation this weekend for the provincial championships. They will see a few familiar faces there when they open the competition against their counterparts from Athabasca, but after that it will be into the unknown as they challenge the best teams from across the province.

Even making it to such a competition is heady stuff for any team, because you need to be among the very best to get there.

“These are the best teams out of every zone in Alberta. Every team should be tough. It shows the class of talent that’s in this province,” said Boyle head coach Mark Kilar.

“Getting to provincials is the goal when you’re measuring your team. It’s been our goal all year. You’ve accomplished something (when you qualify).”

For Boyle, getting to provincials involved beating skilled teams like Lac La Biche and Smoky Lake. They lost to Meadow Lake in the league championships, and though that was a disappointment, the focus now is solely on provincials.

The team still has some practice time to work out the kinks on the ice, but Kilar was philosophical when considering just what he and his fellow coaches would be doing to get the kids ready for this coming weekend.

After all, if they’re not ready by now, when will they be?

“We’ll just go over everything that we’ve done this year,” said the coach. “They’ve got the experience. We’ll leave it in the kids’ hands. I’ve been preaching to them all year.”

Certainly, good coaching helps win championships. But when the puck drops, it’s the players on the ice that make the difference. Kilar understands that, which is why he is prepared to loosen up on the reins and see what his players are capable of this weekend.

By pledging to “leave it in their hands,” he is also giving his players a powerful vote of confidence. Now the Blazers can take to the ice in Coronation knowing that their coach has faith in them and believes they can compete with the powerful teams they are slated to face.

In the dressing room, meanwhile, team captain Colton Nikipelo sees a team that is ready to challenge for victory at provincials, and he sees them traveling a relatively simple road to get there.

“We need to stick to the plan. Work hard, skate, and don’t take any periods off,” said the captain. “Shoot more, break out hard and make every moment count.”

Doesn’t sound too complicated. Of course, even the best laid plans can go awry during the intensity of a hockey game, and provincials will be nothing if not intense. With the best bantam teams from across Alberta all battling to be the very best, plans will ultimately defer to skill and, perhaps more importantly, desire.

Experience will help too. Luckily, there’s plenty of that in the Boyle dressing room.

“Some of these guys have been to provincials four or five times,” explained Kilar.

These Blazers know how to win hockey games, but they also know what it’s like to play against the very best at a competition that draws all sorts of attention.

Knowing what you’re getting into is a great first step on the way to dealing with it.

“It’s loud, and there are nerves, but it’s more exciting than nerve-wracking,” said Nikipelo. “It’s not new to us. We know how it goes.”

None of the teams the Blazers are set to face are going to roll over for them. They’re all developing game plans too, and they all want to be the provincial champion.

As is the case in any level of hockey, when the puck is dropped, all bets are off.

“It’s a big thing for a small town like Boyle to go to provincials,” said the captain. “We’ll have fun and try our hardest.”





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