After practising since August, the Orillia Terriers Jr. C Hockey Club finally hit the ice for exhibition games last week.
The Terriers visited the Alliston Hornets last Wednesday where they played a game with no fans in the stands and under modified rules put in place by the Ontario Hockey Federation.
“It was basically a trial to see if it would work under modified rules,” explained Terriers head coach Dallyn Telford.
Each player from both teams was screened before entering the arena. The teams then split their teams into two 11-player rosters including their goalie.
Once on the ice, players were unable to make any physical contact with one another, there were no face-offs, no goal celebrations, and the game was played with a running clock of two 18-minute periods with continuous play.
Penalties were decided with penalty shots. If the goalie froze the puck, the offensive team had to clear the blue line before attacking again. For an icing or an offside, the offensive team was forced to clear the red line before attacking again.
Once the first two rosters completed periods one and two, they left the ice to make way for the second set of rosters to come out and finish the game by playing periods three and four.
The Terriers were victorious in their first game since February - winning 5-4 - and more importantly, the players were able to adapt and follow the modified rules.
“They passed that with flying colours,” Telford said.
“We will see where it goes. It’s a good start for us and a good way to get the kids into some action that’s more competitive than practising.”
Despite the different style of play, Telford says the game was played with the same type of competitive spirit.
“It was very competitive. I think everybody is really surprised with how fast it is,” Telford said.
“You really see players' skating abilities and skill set. It really makes you go back to the fundamentals of having to use your stick instead of your body.”
The Terriers played the Hornets again this past Saturday in Orillia where they tied 7-7. While players are getting used to the new style of hockey, Telford says there is still lots of adjusting to do.
“There is an adjustment period for the players having to constantly skate, with only 10 players on a bench, at 5-on-5 on the ice, you have to be in shape,” he said.
Telford says there are also adjustments that need to be made by the coaching staff.
“There are different strategies that have come into play, you don’t have powerplays or penalty kills, and it’s a more wide-open, fast break-out kind of a game,” he said.
The Terriers and Hornets look forward to potentially building off their new way to play, and are hopeful about adding other teams into their bubble to create more competition.
“I think the idea down the road is to sort of bubble up with another team in our division for a two-week period and play them, and then we break for two weeks to practise, and then we bring another team in and play them for two weeks,” Telford explained.
However, Telford is still not positive that an actual Provincial Junior Hockey League sanctioned season will be possible anytime in the near future.
“It really depends on what the government allows us to do,” Telford said.
“There are two teams in our division who do not fall under the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. They are in the York and Peel region which makes things more difficult," he said of the GTA areas known as hot zones for the high number of COVID-19 cases.