Elite League keeps Jr. Ducks on their toes
Members of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks’ coaching staffs knew the jump into the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League would be a big step, but they weren’t sure how their Midget 18U and 16U teams would respond.
Despite winning records for both teams after the first two showcases, it’s evident there’s a ways to go, the teams’ head coaches said.
“You can see there’s a lot of a parity; most games have relatively close scores,” said 16U coach Alex Kim, whose team went 8-1 to start. “Our team is still learning you have to compete hard against every team because you’re playing against top teams every game.”
The 18U team also had a good start, going 6-1-2, but it’s been far from easy.
“Every game we find ourselves – our identity – a bit more,” 18U coach Larry Barron said. “Every game we have to scratch and claw, and the boys have learned that every night you have to respect your opponent.
“It’s been a good experience.”
The competitiveness of the Elite League has been its biggest benefit, Barron said.
“We have a lot of guys who had success last year and a lot of veteran players, but they quickly realized this is a new season,” he added.
“The boys knew what league they walked into; every game is going to be a battle, and we’ve already had to come from behind several times.”
The step up – and the bumps that can come with it – can have wide-ranging micro and macro impacts. Game after game of high-level hockey steels the teams for California Amateur Hockey Association competition and beyond.
It also can expand the Jr. Ducks’ footprint.
“If you do well, it elevates the club on a nationals scale,” Kim said. “You become a more reputable program.”
– Chris Bayee