Rookie Mitchell Pellarin moving up in the ranks
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times Davenport Subaru Orillia Terriers forward Mitchell Pellarin stands in front of Penetang Kings goalie Andrew North, an Orillia native, during action Saturday night at Rotary Place. The two were formerly teammates on Patrick Fogarty’s high-school hockey team. North backstopped his team to a 7-4 win.
Missed opportunities. Bad breaks. Critical mistakes. Pick your poison, but for the Davenport Subaru Orillia Terriers, finding a different way to lose each night is taking its toll.
On Saturday night, the Terriers were in the driver's seat, up 4-3 in the dying moments of the second period, when the Penetang Kings took advantage of a miscue to score a back-breaking game-tying goal. Riding that momentum, the visitors scored the only three goals of the third period - one into an empty net - to skate away with a 7-4 victory at Rotary Place.
"We should have won all three of our last three games and instead found ways to lose," lamented Terriers bench boss Randy Salmon, whose team's Provincial Junior Hockey League record fell to 9-16-0. "It's frustrating."
That frustration was oozing from the players as they exited the ice after another demoralizing defeat Saturday night. Sticks were broken, doors were slammed and curse words were the currency of the little conversation that occurred.
"Obviously, we're desperate to win and we're just not doing our job right now, so until we do, the room in there is not going to be as happy as it should be," conceded rookie forward Mitchell Pellarin, who played his fifth game for his new team following a stint with the Wellington Dukes of the Provincial Jr. A League.
The talented Orillian was toiling on the fourth line with the Dukes, did not see the ice often and felt an opportunity to play a regular role with the Terriers would better help him to reach his goal of playing in the OHL; the Oshawa Generals drafted the former North Central Predator late in last year's draft.
"It's been an adjustment period for sure going from a fourth-line guy to a top-six forward," said the hard-working 16-year-old winger. "The expectations when you get two minutes a night compared to 20 minutes a night are a lot higher. It's an adjustment, but I feel like the next couple of games I'll be back to where I should be."
Despite the steep learning curve of his expanded role, Pellarin has scored twice playing with veteran Marty Lawlor. He said he should have many more. "I think I've set the record for the number of posts hit in a guy's first five games in Jr. C," quipped Pellarin. "I probably have 11 posts in those five games "¦ it's frustrating."
Salmon said Pellarin has impressed him - and his new teammates. He said when an opponent recently took a cheap shot at Pellarin, everybody on the bench wanted to defend him. "They see he's got talent, he works hard and he's gained the respect of his teammates already," Salmon said. "After the first game, Ben Garrett came up to me and suggested I take him off the power-play and put Pellarin on - that's how much they respect the kid. I've never had a player ask to be taken off the power-play in favour of someone else."
The coach expects Pellarin to evolve into an even more important player. "He's still getting his stamina - every game, he gets a little better. He skates hard, he works hard "¦ he's an intelligent player."
Pellarin had one of his team's goals in the loss Saturday night. Corey Miller, who returned to the lineup after missing a game due to the flu bug, had a strong night on the top line with Jake Shaw and Mike Barroso, scoring twice and earning an assist on Shaw's goal. Andrew Couling did not have his best game in a Terriers' uniform, stopping 24 of 30 shots in the defeat at Rotary Place.
On Friday night, the Terriers played a hard-fought game against the host Huntsville Otters, falling short in a 5-2 defeat. Tied 2-2 with six minutes to play, a bad bounce handed the host Otters an odd-man advantage that ended up in the back of the net. The Otters added two empty-net goals to secure the win. "When it was 2-2, we missed a wide-open net and then, a puck bounces over our defenceman's stick, creates a two-on-one and they capitalize," said Salmon.
While frustrated with the breakdowns and bad breaks, Salmon said the team would have better results if it played harder and more consistent. "Our defence is too passive and they're letting the other team's forwards beat them to the puck," said Salmon, noting Kyle Fischer, usually a forward but moved to the blueline Saturday night, was the team's best defenceman. "Good for him, but he shouldn't be our best defenceman."
With the weekend losses, the sputtering Terriers are in sixth spot in the eight-team league, one point behind Schomberg, two points back of Midland and just two ahead of Penetang. The Terriers are in Stayner Thursday night and host Caledon Saturday night in a 7:30 p.m. contest at Rotary Place.
TERRIER TALES: Trenton Micks was not in the lineup Saturday; he served a one-game suspension levied to him the night before after, in frustration following an empty-net goal, he fired the puck into the stands. Matt Vince left Saturday's game in the second period with a heel injury, but is not expected to miss any time. The Terriers outshot the Kings 37-31 as Orillia native Andrew North shone between the pipes for the visitors.
Crowther to be honoured
The Orillia Terriers and the North Central Predators will honour Ryan Crowther this week.
Crowther – who grew up playing minor hockey in Orillia, went on to play AAA hockey for the Predators, played in the OHL, returned to play for the Provincial Jr. A Terriers and then went on to play professional hockey around the world – died suddenly Nov. 6. He was 37.
The long-time defenceman who never backed down from a battle on the ice, went public a few months ago with his battle against the devastating impact multiple concussions had on his life. Despite those challenges, Crowther had returned to hockey as a coach. He was with the minor midget Predators team he helped coach at a tournament in Chicago when he died. A cause of death has not been determined.
His death has had reverberations around the hockey world, highlighted Saturday night when Don Cherry talked about the “ice warrior” on his Coach’s Corner show. The impact of his loss is profound locally as the fun-loving, tough-as-nails player left a legacy that won’t be forgotten.
On Wednesday night, the Predators will recognize Crowther with an on-ice ceremony at the Rama MASK before the minor midgets’ contest against the Barrie Colts. The ceremony, that will include many members of Crowther’s family, will start at 7:15 p.m.
On Saturday night, the Terriers will also honour the rugged player who once shone for the club. There will be a pre-game ceremony prior to the team’s 7:30 p.m. game at Rotary Place. That ceremony will have special meaning for current Terrier Mitchell Pellarin.
Pellarin’s family has close ties to the Crowther clan; Ryan mentored Mitchell when his hockey skill became evident. When he played minor hockey, Pellarin wore the number 14 just like Crowther. So, when he opted to leave the Jr. A Wellington Dukes to come home to play for the Terriers, he immediately asked for the familiar number.
“When I came back here, I just thought it was a way to honour Ryan’s family,” said Pellarin, still in shock over the death, but proud to wear Crowther’s old number. “I told his wife and parents and family right away and they were really touched by it. I also wear a sticker with his initials on my helmet.”
Crowther was a role model for many – including Pellarin. “I talked to Ryan just a couple of days before he passed away and he told me, no matter what you do, have fun with hockey. I always try to remember that.”
- Dave Dawson