The season didn’t start so well for the St. Thomas Aquinas Stingers. But that has begun to change.
The high school boys hockey team has turned things around in December and January, righting the ship with wins and solid play.
“We’re certainly on the rise,” said Matt Keogh, Stingers head coach. “I think that, if things work well and the hockey gods are with us, then there’s some good things coming.”
The Tottenham school came into this season with a lot of turnover on their roster and it showed.
“Most of the group is new,” Keogh said. “When you have a mainly new group like this, it takes a while to gel. Now, here we are in game seven of our season and we’re starting to gel. We’re not giving up the free ones anymore.”
That’s led to a decided improvement in St. Thomas Aquinas goals against average.
“In a couple of our games, it was breakaway, breakaway, breakaway, for their goals,” said Keogh following a 3-1 victory over the St. Joan of Arc Knights. “Now in (this game), we didn’t give up a single breakaway. If you’re not giving up the free ones, it makes the game a lot easier.”
Playing their first game after the winter break against the perennially-strong Knights, the Stingers got out in front early with a pair of goals and never looked back.
“It set the tone and the momentum for the game,” said Christian Moore, Stingers forward. “Those two goals were pretty big and it was a big confidence boost for our team. Our goalie played really well and we got the win.”
Moore, who plays for the double-A midget TNT Tornadoes, is suiting up as a Stinger for the first time this year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said the Grade 11 student. “It’s a difference from (rep) hockey, so it’s a great time and I’m glad I’m doing it.”
The St. Thomas Aquinas contest against the Knights was a chippy affair, and Keogh had his hands full trying to keep his team away from the penalty box.
“I’ll be honest,” he said. “It’s difficult for teenagers being teenagers, and you have to talk them out of being teenagers. The good news is I have some experience around the game, so I know when things are starting to get volatile and who’s getting volatile. We talk about the team being bigger than the individual and typically, that works, but every once in a while, our fuse gets lit and there isn’t anything we can do about it.”
While the Stingers still hit some undisciplined spots from time to time, they didn’t give up any power-play goals thanks to some improved work in their own end.
“Defensively, we’re much better,” Keogh said. “We’re much smarter defensively. Game volatility got us in trouble earlier this season, and we’ve concentrated on that not getting us in trouble. Against (St. Joan of Arc), we had a couple of 5-on-3’s against, but we are getting better. We’re gelling and it’s nice to see them happy.”
After losing handily in their first three games of the season, things have turned around for the Stingers, which found itself on an unbeaten streak after a rough first few weeks.
“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Moore said. “We got off to a slow start, but we’ve really come out on top these last few weeks, so we need to continue good in 2018 and have a good run in the playoffs.”
With the effort Keogh has seen from his squad in the last month and a half, there’s reason to believe that things will continue to get better.
“We’re coming around,” he said. “We started off dreadfully, but we’re moving in the right direction. You’ve got to be good in February and you’ve got to be good in March, and hopefully, that’s what we’re going to do this year.”
In the photo, St. Thomas Aquinas forward Christian Moore moves the puck up the ice in a recent victory over St. Joan of Arc.