In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, assistant coach Steve Webb recaps the team's Atlantic Youth Hockey League championship.The Under-16 Long Island Royals Midget National team defeated the New Jersey Junior Titans in the tournament final on March 4 at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.
We wanted to use the AYHL tournament as a stepping stone to the New York State tournament. Anytime you get to play against good teams in one weekend, like we did against the North Jersey Avalanche and the Junior Titans, it does get you prepared for what is ahead. We used that tourney to help the players get prepared and to learn how to play when things are actually on the line.
We did win it and players showed up at the right time to step it up. In the later stages of the season, you want to see how they're going into a championship game and how they look at it and prepare for it.
I thought the final [against the Titans] was a great game. I thought our players played really well. They pursued the puck and played at a high energy. The players came together and really instituted the game plan we put in place, from start to finish. That was really nice to see, especially this time of the season because that's what you try and groom all season. You want to build a consistent effort throughout a game and to execute at the right time up through the end of the game. I thought the players really showed that.
After winning the Long Island championship and, now, the Atlantic League championship, we felt our group was in good shape heading into the State tournament. The thing is, we knew we didn't really hurt out state chances if we won or lost the Atlantic League, but pride was on the line. The kids wanted to perform well to win something and get used to this type of performance for down the road.
The boys really stepped up, played hard and made winning decisions with and without the puck. They really learned how to play the game when something was on the line.
Long Island Royals head coach Pat LaFontaine echoed Steve Webb's sentiments and was proud of the way the team came together to win the tournament crown in preparation for the New York State Tournament in Buffalo, N.Y.
There's nothing greater than, as a coach, watching your kids battle through adversity and understand what's at stake and the team rise to the occasion. That's a special feeling when you see that, earn it and then prove it on the ice.
Everybody is looking at you because you're considered the favorite. It's one thing when you're an underdog, but when you're expected to win, that's when you have to have that much more resolve and composure and the kids showed that during the Atlantic Youth Hockey League championship against the New Jersey Junior Titans.
The coaching staff was really proud of the way they handled themselves both on and off the ice that weekend.
I'm here to develop a winning culture and a winning team. There is a bright future ahead of this team. A lot of young, great hockey players here and on the way … a fan base that's passionate about the game of hockey.
— Dan Bylsma after being introduced as new coach of the Buffalo Sabres