FALL RIVER: Knowing there will be scouts from the QMJHL, NCAA and other prep schools in attendance at the Gatorade Excellence Challenge next week isn’t adding an extra sweat for three locals—nor should it.
Newly announced Valley Wildcats major midget head coach Andre Lefebvre of Fall River, along with Beaver Bank forward Ryan Francis and goalie Nolan Boyd of Fall River will be representing the area on the heavily HRM-ladened Team Nova Scotia that will do battle at the Gatorade Excellence Challenge April 26-30 in Boisbriand, Quebec.
Boyd and Francis are both excited about the opportunity playing on the team will provide.
“It’s a great chance for us to go show off our skills at the highest level, especially for this draft against the best players around,” Boyd said. “We’re really excited.”
“It’s going to be a really fun time playing up in Montreal against the best players from across Eastern Canada,” added Francis, who attends Lockview High. “You’re going to want to play your best with everyone watching.”
Both agreed their proud to be able to represent their province, following in the footsteps of other great players who donned the Bluenose colours in the past.
Francis, who racked up 51 points to lead his Cole Harbour Wolfpack as a rookie in team scoring, said he’s going there to play his game.
“I’m going to work my hardest and play the best that I can,” he said.
Boyd—a Maple Leafs fan who thinks it’s Montreal’s year to win the Stanley Cup— feels N.S. can be a surprise team, as they were in past years losing in the final to Quebec last year.
“Obviously the two Quebec teams are strong and are the favourites, but if we go up there and we play the way we can, I think we have a really good shot,” he said.
Lefebvre agrees with his players overview of the team’s chances.
“I don’t think it’s far off to think we can get to the gold medal game,”said Lefebvre. “That’s where I want to be. We’re going to be up against the wall and we’re going to have our work cut out for us.
“I don’t think it’s a far off thing for us to be thinking about the gold.”
He is honoured to have been named the team’s coach.
“I look at this as a big honour and privilege,” he said. “I’ve worked with this age group coming up for the last few years so I’d like to think I know them.
“Anytime you can represent your province at a national event it’s something to treasure.”
Lefebvre said both Francis and Boyd bring a lot to the squad.
“Nolan is going to be one of our two goalies who we’re going to have to elan on especially when we play against the Quebec teams, they have a lot of firepower,” he said. “Ryan’s going to do what Ryan has done all the way through the season. We’re going to look to him for offence and to not only be a leader in the offensive zone but also the defensive zone.”
The Gatorade Excellence Challenge is an annual tournament that features teams from Quebec (2), N.B., P.E.I., NL, and N.S. Scouts will use it as an evaluation tool ahead of the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Boyd doesn’t feel knowing there are scouts in the stands will impact players like him or Francis. The Lockview High student finished the regular season 12-5 for a 2.33 Goals Against Average in 1,056.28 minutes played.
“It really doesn’t (add any extra pressure) because at the end of the day it’s our job to go out there and play our best,” said Boyd, who helped his Steele Subarus to a runner up finish losing to the CB West Islanders in the NSMMHL final.
Lefebvre said his advice to his troops knowing scouts are watching will be for them to just to play the way they can and not try to do anything spectacular to standout more.
He might know a thing or two about scouting since he is one for the Moncton Wildcats. His scouting hat will be off for the week though, at least until the trip home.
“I can honestly say as soon as we get on that bus on Sunday, there will be players from all over Atlantic Canada hearing from me for telephone interviews that Monday,” he said with a chuckle.